I’m getting thirsty doing this ongoing wine tour of the Yukon Liquor Corp (YLC) store in Whitehorse, but I hope my articles in this series are causing you to think about tasting wines from some of the countries represented on its shelves.
If you have a tasting experience, or other comment or question, please feel free to e-mail me at:[email protected]. I’d enjoy hearing from you. Now, on to the next countries!
You may recall that the last article touched on some of the wines of Argentina. As the YLC store is laid out, we now move onto the wines of Germany, which are shelved on the third row, on the side facing the registers.
I have to admit that my wine tasting experience is weakest in the area of German and Hungarian wines, but I’ll tell you what I can.
The wines I have tasted from Germany have all been white, which may be why I haven’t been as interested in them… I am primarily a red wine drinker.
While it turns out that almost two thirds of German wines are white, there is no representation of German reds at the YLC. Indeed, I don’t think I’ve seen much German red anywhere I have shopped.
I have also noticed that the section devoted to German wines in the YLC is substantially smaller than Italy, Australia, or even Argentina or Chile, for instance. In fact, it’s more the size of the shelving dedicated to Spanish and Portuguese wines.
Interestingly, as I researched German wines a little, I was interested to read that most of them are produced in the west of Germany, on a relatively thin strip of land that follows the path of the Rhine River, and its tributaries.
As a historian, this makes sense to me, as the first vineyards planted in Germany date to the time of the Roman Empire, and the Rhine would have been (and continues to be) one of the key connecting transportation arteries in western Germany.
About 60 percent of all Germany wine production is done in one German state (Rhineland-Palatinate), which is directly east of Luxembourg, and almost half of the 13 designated quality wine regions are found within this state.
Interestingly, Germany has about 1,000 square kilometres of vineyards in the whole country, which is only about one tenth of the vineyard area of Spain, France or Italy. Total wine production is around 1.2 billion bottles annually, which makes Germany the eighth largest wine producer in the world.
It’s interesting to me that most of the German wines are produced close to the 50th parallel, which may explain why many of the B.C. and Ontario vineyards started with – and in some cases, continue with – wines from German grape varietals, and in the German style.
Even the justly famous Canadian ice wines harken back to German wine-making traditions.
As you peruse the shelves of the YLC, you’ll see terms such as “Kabinett”, which means that the wine is a medium- to high-quality light wine that has been aged, usually for more than a year (equivalent to a “reserve” wine).
Typically, it will be semi-sweet, perhaps with a crisp, sometimes appley taste. I find these to be nice “picnic” wines, which I would ideally pair with cold roast chicken in the summer time.
Spätlese wines are sweeter, “late harvest” wines that have been pick late in the season to maximize the sugar content in the grapes. Though counter-intuitive to me, they can go very well with spicier dishes such as Indian or Mexican food, and their fruit notes usually shine through.
Liebfraumilch, is a medium-quality wine designation, but common perception, both in Germany as well as the export market, is that it’s a low-quality wine.
Of the selection that you find on our Whitehorse shelves, I’ve found the Dr. Loosen wines ($19.20 and $20.40) to be the most consistently satisfying and pleasant to drink.
And just for the fun of it, I may have to go back and try the Sichel Blue Nun ($13.10), one of the first German wines to be marketed in this country back in the ’70s, and the Kendermann Black Tower(also $13.10) to see what they’re like these days.
The great part about the German wines at the YLC is that none of them is over $21.00, so there are a number to try, with little heavy investment required.
I haven’t found anything yet that knocks my socks off, but I’m planning a party with food and wine combinations for some friends’ birthday party this Friday, and I think I’ll try a couple of German whites with some of the spicier dishes, and let you know how they work out.
Well, that’s all for this time, but we’ll move on to more European treats in an upcoming article.