Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Do German wine labels seem foreign to you? Here are a few hints to help you navigate the language barrier.

First, the producer is listed, followed by the town where the grapes were grown. (They make it easy to spot by adding an "er" at the end.) The vineyard name is next and then unlike many European producers, Germany also lists the grape variety on their label.

Riesling is the main variety grown but for the adventurous, try Silvaner. Red grape varieties are Dornfelder and Spätburgunder, the German name for pinot noir.

With Germany's cool northern climate, the grapes ripen later, but lower alcohol wines are slightly sweeter than those with a higher percentage. Learning a few terms like tafelwein, Qba, Qmp, kabinett and spatlese, auslese, berenauslese, trokenauslese, and icewein will steer you to the level of sweetness you prefer. Kabinett, is the lowest ripeness level in "Qualitätswein mit Prädikat," which is the highest quality level.

Some German wine labels will also show Trocken (Dry) or Halbtrocken (Half Dry) to denote wines vinified to less natural sweetness.

Be fearless, learn a new label lingo and experiment.