WINE O’CLOCK: When it’s easier to drink it than say it
THERE was a time, apparently, when German wines were highly regarded and expensive. Hock, named for the region of Hochheim, was the drink of kings, sipped from special hock glasses, with a green bowl and ribbed stem.
I say ‘apparently’ because I don’t remember that time. I do remember a market flooded with thin, sugary, low-alcohol ‘Liebfraumilch’, when Blue Nun and Black Tower were the drinks everyone brought to your party, in the hope they could ditch them in the kitchen and find something better in the fridge.
The good stuff tends to come with impossible names. Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg may taste like nectar from the gods, but it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. And the value of Appellation Controlée wilts a bit when it becomes Qualitateswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete.
But there are plenty of good German wines, well worth a try if you see them on the shelves. They tend to be on the sweet side – not like a desert wine, but sweet all the same. Even the driest are sweeter than most dry wines from other countries.
Here are a few unpronounceable designations to look for: Quialitatswein mit Pradikat (sometimes abbreviated to QmP) indicates a good wine from grapes that have been naturally ripened; Trocken means dry (although they are still pretty sweet); Spatlese means late harvest and will be rich and full-bodied; Tafelwein is what it sounds like – and it generally won’t disgrace your table.
They are mostly made from Riesling grapes. Good as an aperitif, with fruit or with (but not as) dessert.
One to look for is Kabinett Erbacher Marcobrunn from Schloss Schonborn. If you can say that, at least you’ll know you’re sober.