German wines: Wein & dine

German wines: Wein & dine

When you think of pairing alcohol with Asian food - specifically, Chinese, Indian, Japanese and hawker favourites - which wine comes to mind? Our intrepid sommelier friends may have the answer: Old World German, specifically its versatile, finely crafted and cool climate Rieslings and Pinot Noir.

Riesling grows well in many parts of the world, but originated in the Rhine region of Germany; it is one of the few varieties that didn't originate in France. It is more aromatic and acidic than other whites, and able to withstand the continental climate in this most northerly great wine region of the world.

The other most planted grape is the Spätburgunder - known to us by its more international name, Pinot Noir. Like Riesling, the high acid and flavourful Pinot Noir performs best in cool climates. It is an early-budding and early-ripening grape which needs more time on the vine to develop full potential in its aroma and flavours.

Wein & Vin's director Boon Heng remarks: "German wines are well positioned in most fine-dining establishments and highly regarded by sommeliers in Singapore. Dry German Rieslings prove popular at restaurants including Iggy's, Guy Savoy and Waku Ghin." He predicts that German Pinot Noir will be the next big thing, although not more than 5 per cent of the production is exported now because of strong home-base demand.

This brings us to the subject of traditional Gothic-looking German wine labelling, a topic that Hugh Johnson joked should have its own course in university. As with most things German, the logic will be clearer once you get the basis of it and commit a few key words to memory.

Prädikatswein is the upper-level of quality wines, as opposed to tafelwein (table wine). These regulations were introduced in 1971, based on Germany's cool-climate vineyards, which make achieving grape ripeness a challenge. Quality levels of German wine are thus based on the ripeness of grapes, measured on the Oechsle scale based on the residual sugar in the grapes at harvest time. Two things to note: prädikat levels are not strictly a hierarchical order of quality - there are stylistic and winemaking differences as well; and a high Oechsle value does not always translate to sweetness in the finished wine, as a wine can still be dry (trocken) or fairly dry (halbtrocken).

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