Ten years ago. . .
Man walks in to a wine shop and asks for a wine to go with a certain dish.
The clerk replies: “German Riesling”.
Man walks out of wine shop.
Wait, where’s the punch line? The badum-bump? There’s none of that because it’s not a joke. Times were really that hard for the German wine industry. The clerk might as well have just sung the entire theme song from The Producers
What a difference a decade makes: in the last five years, German wine imports to the US have doubled and show no signs of letting up. The German Wine Institute, which promotes German wine worldwide, is certainly patting itself on the back for its efforts. Still, I would give the most credit to the people on the frontlines selling German wine and most notably Terry Theise. If you aren’t familiar with him, you owe it to yourself to take a look at his enthusiastically written catalogs of German wine
(he also has Austrian and Champagne catalogs as well). They’re highly personal, fun to read and easily the best insight into the contemporary world of German wine. They’re also one of the best values in the wine publishing world for the bargain price of free.
The Theise Manifesto
- Beauty is more important than impact.
- Harmony is more important than intensity.
- The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts.
- Distinctiveness is more important than conventional prettiness.
- Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil and artisanality.
The emphasis is on Riesling which is Germany’s grape contribution to the wine world. They’re made in many different styles but for summer drinking, we’re looking at the lighter Qba’s and Kabinetts, that are also ready to drink now. This way we won’t be forced to commit inVINticide
- the crime of drinking a wine too young — which is the unseemly ending to many a Riesling in our house. (for more information on aging guideline see the Theise catalogs
, which has an excellent quick introduction to German wine)
2005 Josef Leitz Dragonstone Riesling, Rhinegau
This is the wine that David Schildknecht (the Wine Advocate’s German expert) calls the best Riesling value in the world. It’s incredibly balanced, slightly pungent and savory with almond and floral notes. Amazing extra long zesty lime finish.
2003 Dönnhoff Estate Riesling, Nahe
The entry level wine from one of the most famous German producers. This is much drier but still very balanced. The diesel notes start to come through, which I believe is due to its dryness, but is a topic of debate. Wet rocks, rose petals and some peach (also some butterscotch) round out this classic Reisling. Very elegant but not as fun as the Dragonstone.
Other ready to drink Rieslings from Terry Theise (vintages aren’t given, but for these, the younger the better):
- J & H Selbach TJ Riesling
- Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Trocken
- Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken
- Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett
- Joh. Jos. Christoffel “J.J.” Riesling
- Reuscher-Haart Piesporter Treppchen Riesling
- Hoffmann-Simon Estate Riesling
- J & H A Strub Niersteiner Riesling Kabinett
- Wagner-Stempel Siefersheimer Riesling Trocken
- Wagner-Stempel Höllberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
- Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Trocken
- Müller-Catoir Haardter Herzog Riesling Kabinett Trocken
- Müller-Catoir Bürgergarten Breumel In Den Mauern Riesling Grosses Gewächs
- Dr. Deinhard Riesling Halbtrocken
- Dr. Deinhard Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Kabinett Trocken
- Dr. Deinhard Deidesheimer Grainhübel Riesling Spätlese Trocken
Since all of these wines are extremely food friendly, you can serve them with pretty much anything. However, if you really want to experience total harmony, pair them with my mother’s potato salad, a manifesto of simplicity, elegance and balance.
My Mom’s Potato Salad
- 5 lbs potatoes
- 1 bunch celery
- 5 scallions, or half a medium white onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 20 green olives preferably stuffed with pimentos, sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Peel, chop and boil potatoes until just getting soft (approx. 20 min)
Drain potatoes and let cool for 10 min
Add all the other ingredients and mix together.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Serves 10 to 20.
The World Cup
We now have the makings for the perfect World Cup party, a few bottles of excellent German Riesling and my mom’s potato salad. And since Germany is hosting the games, the planets must be fully aligned.
If you haven’t been keeping track, the last four teams remaining are all from major wine producing countries. Germany, the world’s 8th largest wine producer, plays the world’s 9th largest producer, Portugal for the 3rd place trophy this Saturday. France and Italy, respectively the 1st and 2nd largest wine producers play for the championship on Sunday. Depending on who you’re rooting for, you may want to include a bottle or two from one of the other countries!
Terry Theise’s Catalogs
German Wine Basics
Tell me what’s wrong with the picture of the glass of Dragonstone Riesling and win a free t-shirt.