In this week’s episode of the Wine Enthusiast Podcast, we talk to the award-winning sparkling winemakers in England taking the wine world by storm, plus learn about the key German white varieties beyond Riesling from legendary wine importer Rudi Wiest.
Brought to you by
Blue Apron, which made home-cooking cool again, now has an even better reason to stay in: Incredible wines! Save $25 on your first six-bottle shipment at blueapron.com/corkscrew
Host: From Wine Enthusiast Magazine, this is the Wine Enthusiast Podcast. Coming up on today’s podcast, England is sparkling. Contributing Editor Anne Krebiehl who reviews wines from Austria, Alsace and England, talks to award winning wine makers from some of the top English Sparkling Houses with a focus on why bubbly from the UK is taking the world by storm.
Dermot Sugrue: I think we have inherently in England because our marginal climate for growing grapes, it is said by one of the greatest wine vineyard consultants, Dr. Richard Smart, ‘The Flying Vine Doctor,’ that England is probably the most marginal company in the world to grow grapes to make wine.
Host: Plus more than just Rieslings. Germany’s other white wines. Contributing Editor Anna Lee C. Iijima interviews Rudi Wiest a premiere German wine importer who imports fun funky wines that are not Chardonnay, and they’ll talk about which ones to discover and why.
Rudi Wiest: I would have rather had a fellowship of German wine rather than a Riesling because there is a heck of a lot more to Germany than just Riesling.
Host: Plus, Paired-Down Parings, wine basics and more. All coming up on the Wine Enthusiast Podcast.
Blue Apron Wine. Every wine club promises to send you tasty reds and whites, but only Blue Apron Wine partners with the world’s best winemakers to get you incredible reds and whites. We’re talking Vignobles Bulliat Morgon, 91 points from Wine Enthusiast, and Matthiasson, nominated for a 2018 James Beard Award. Get $25 off your first shipment of six wines at blueapron.com/corkscrew.
Champagne has long been the gold standard when it comes to sparkling wine, but that standard is being challenged by cutting edge vintner’s from of all places, England. Contributing Editor Anne Krebiehl who reviews wines from Austria, Alsace and England, takes us inside some of the UK’s most distinguished sparkling wine houses in an area that could become the new capital for sparkling wine, South of London.
Anne Krebiehl: Wine production is on the rise in England. More than 1 million vines were planted in 2017. The most ever planted in one year in the UK. The key regions are Sussex, Kent, Hampshire, Dorset and Cornwall in the south of England. Sparkling accounts for 68% of total English wine production.
I’m Anne Krebiehl, contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast, and I’m going to take you on a journey to some of the sparkling wine vineyards of England to meet some extraordinary women and men in this burgeoning industry. Our first stop is Sussex.
I’m standing in a vineyard in the most beautifully picturesque English countryside. I can see oak trees, but there are narrow lanes and beautiful farmsteads and cottages with thatched roofs. I’m here with a wine making couple.
Cherie Spriggs: Hi, I’m Cherie Spriggs, I’m the head winemaker here at Nyetimber.
Brad Greatrix: Brad Greatrix, winemaker at Nyetimber and obviously, Cherie and I as you mentioned, are a married couple.
AK: Where are we? Because we are in a very special place.
CS: That’s right. So we are in the southeast of England in a little town called West Chiltington. We are in the vineyards that started Nyetimber off over 30 years ago now, where we have 30 year old Chardonnay vines.
AK: Nyetimber Estate itself is an ancient farmstead and ancient estate that was mentioned in the Doomsday book that was in the possession of King Henry the VIII, but let’s wield to this history. How come there are vines here?
CS: Credit can actually be given to an American couple who founded this vineyard in 1988, and they were the first people to plant Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for the sole purpose of making traditional method sparkling wine here in the South of England, so it was their inspiration from the land here that we’re in that really started this whole thing off.
AK: It’s a wonderful idea because there were some commercial vineyards here in England since the 1950’s, but mostly then what was planted was a kind of bloody minded determination of German varieties and hybrids like Reichensteiner and Madeleine Angevine and it’s funny that it took two Americans to put one and one together. What do you think made them think that this was the perfect spot to grow grapes to make sparkling wine?
CS: Really, I think it comes down to the soil of the site that we’re in. Running through the South of England we have two chalk ridges, which underneath chalk lays a variety of soils. One of which was called green sand. Both chalk and green sand soils here in the Southeast of England are really great soils for growing for traditional method sparkling wine and of course you find similar soils in Champagne. So, I think they were inspired by the soil; by the land. They could see that there was so much similarity, “There must be potential then for traditional method in this country.”
AK: What made you two come on board this project and when did you come?
CS: Brad and I started at Nyetimber in February, 2007. That’s over 11 years ago now. We were very much inspired to come here by having tasted a bottle of Nyetimber many years ago. Also, very importantly, in 2006, Eric Heerema purchased Nyetimber and he had the real vision and incredible commitment to turn Nyetimber from something good into something world class and extraordinary. Brad and I both were very much inspired by his vision for the business.
AK: At the time I spoke to Cherie she was very excited to have been nominated for “Sparkling Winemaker of the Year Award,” and here in her own words…
CS: I am very humbled and fortunate to have been nominated for the second time at the International Wine Challenge for the “Sparkling Wine Maker of the Year.” If I win, which we hopefully will find out next week, then it would be the first time anywhere outside of Champagne in the history of the competition has ever won. I would also be the first female ever to win that award. So, our fingers are firmly crossed that this would be something we could soon win.
AK: And, yes, she did win. Congratulations Cherie. Later, we tasted one of their delicious bottles and spoke about the unique qualities of grape sparkling wine. Salute‘ Cherie, salute’ Brad
CS: Thank you
AK: We’re in a beautiful barn looking down on the roses that are planted on this beautiful estate. We are tasting the Classic Cuvee of Nyetimber and what is really striking is the moment I smell my glass and when I tasted it, is an exquisite creaminess. So, explain about the creaminess in traditional method sparkling wine.
CS: That creaminess is one of the things that we very much strive for in our wines. It primarily comes from the lees aging process that we give to our wines before they are released. That lees aging process; what that means is after bottling the wine it ages together with the yeast that performed the fermentation to create the bubbles and those yeasts contribute these beautiful aromas. Some of which could be toasty, almondy, even floral characters. But, they also bring a real creaminess into the wine. You’ll particularly, I hope pick that up when you taste it and feel that creaminess on the palette. It’s one of the things that makes traditional methods sparkling wine amazing.
What I really like in great traditional methods sparkling wine is that tension or interplay between the natural inherent crispness you get from the grapes from the natural acidity combined with the characters that you get following from many years lees again of the wine before it’s released. At Nyetimber we age our wines for at least three years on the lees, which is a significant amount of time to really build up those wonderful creamy characters to work with that wonderful fresh acidity. It’s that tension that makes that wine so exciting.
AK: My next stop was Kent. I spoke with Tamara and Mardi Roberts of Ridgeview Estate. They are a pioneering wine family and now one of the biggest and most wildly distributed brands in England. We spoke about their family business, the history of sparkling wine and their amazing success.
Tamara Roberts: I am Tamara Roberts. I am the chief executive of Ridgeview Wine Estate here in the lovely sunny Ditchling just overlooking the beautiful South Towns. I’m here with Mardi who is my sister-in-law, who is our marketing communications director, and married to my brother too. We are very much family business here. Ridgeview was established in 1995, by my parents Mike and Chris Roberts on the back of selling another business they established earlier in their lives. We are now getting close to our 25th anniversary.
AK: We have to say, really just from here I can see the South Towns, beyond the South Towns the English Channel and across the English Channel you then have another two hour drive to be in Champagne. So they’re actually not that far from Champagne.
How many vineyards did your father start?
TR: So, we start with the vineyards that you can see just straight outside the window here. There is another field just to the west of that. 20 acres of planted vines. 25,000 to 30,000 bottles, you know the yield dependent parameter, that was the original business plan. Now we’re 250,000 bottles to 300,000 bottles per anum, so we have in that plan the six year turn around from planting a grape through to selling off our first vintages and also with that you’ve got to remember that even the first year…when you harvest the first year, you’ve got a third of a potential vintage. The fourth year you might get 50% to 75% so when you start selling you’re selling very small quantities for the first three years or until that third year of sales. Then suddenly you start to see a little bit more volume.
The business plan was very much around…small family business selling from here, what we call the “cellar door” mainly, so a lot of retail business and a little bit of local trade which was really how the business plans were put together initially. With a few knocks on the door from some larger corporations early on, including Waitrose and particularly Tony Laithwaite and Hugh Johnson, and with regard to the Laithwaite’s wine business they have. We suddenly saw there was a lot more potential there.
AK: Let me explain that Waitrose is a UK chain of supermarkets and Laithwaite’s is an online wine retailer here in the UK. Hugh Johnson, of course is a wine writer who is very interested in his home selling wine.
One of the things that will strike people immediately about your wines is that they all have London names. So we have Bloomsbury, we have Cavendish, we’ve got Fitzrovia. Where did that idea come from, Mardi?
Mardi Roberts: The initial concept came from the idea that my father-in-law helped uncover with Tom Stevenson, who’s also another Champagne and sparkling wine expert. It was the story of Christopher Merritt, who was this Englishman who is documented in the royal society actually came up with the process of making traditional method sparkling wine, but he was in London. This was thirty years before, officially, sparkling wine was seen to be created in Champagne. My father-in-law and Tom Stevenson were very excited about this idea. In honor of Christopher Merritt, who documented this process, decided to give all of our names a London connection because Christopher Merritt was a Londoner. We thought that it was a really lovely idea of bringing sparkling wine back to England and back to the UK. Which is, had some fantastic sales opportunities as well. We’re now by the glass in the Bloomsbury Hotel, celebrated in Fitzrovia and Cavendish. It’s nice, there’s some great accounts in there as well.
AK: Have you found, in your international markets, that people recognize these names?
MR: With our Bloomsbury, it’s our Chardonnay dominant wine, it’s a lovely celebration wine. It’s been used in lots of occasions, including the Queen’s Stone and Jubilee. The brand has its own energy as well. Being Chardonnay dominate is also a bit of a twist on the usual Pinot dominate Champagne wines, so we love it, it’s that lovely celebration.
I think you’re right to represent the Bloomsbury set because here we are in Ditchling, our local village, and just down the road from Charleston House, where a lot of the Bloomsbury set, we’re doing these creations. It’s wonderful to be bringing that back to Sussex as well. It’s been such a wonderful journey watching perceptions and the quality grow.
AK: Our final stop is in deepest west Sussex, where I chat with Pip Goring, the irrepressible co-owner of Wiston Estate. This ancient English farming estate has been owned and managed by the Goring family since 1743. It’s 6,000 acres straddle the chalkiest slopes of the South Downs, and the flat clay soils of the Weald.
Pip spoke passionately about what it took for her to persuade her husband, Harry Goring, to realize her dream of growing wine on this family estate, including selling their dairy herds.
You must feel very vindicated, now, because this was a vision of you. You made it happen, you were the persuasive woman who made these things happen. You said you had to sell the dairy herd in order to make it work.
Pip Goring: Yes, well with dairy herd, was sadly three years of losing money. We had two dairy herds on the estate as well as one on the farm, one estate. That first one had to go, then we kept it going, kept it going, kept it going. Absolutely gorgeous. Loved having been able to pop down with a can and get the milk, organic milk. It took a long time to realize actually this is just not working. We had to either double the herd or say goodbye to it. Sadly, we said goodbye. I was really sad.
We did, then, have the cash to plant a vineyard. We had no idea how, when you plant a vineyard, it’s like having a pot of gold, and just pouring it into the soil. Then you hope that it’s going to eventually…Dermot came along one day, bounced in on a bright Saturday morning and said, “Pip, if you want a wine maker, I’m your man.” We said, “But, Dermot, you’re with Nyetimber” he said, “no no no, they’re expanding to 500 acres” or whatever they’ve got. He said, “I’m going to keep small and boutique.”
I think that’s another key thing that we’ve kept very small, very boutique, and we love what we do. We love our product, we love what we do. It’s family, family, family. It came from an inspiration. I would walk sometimes thinking, is this terrible? Should we be listening to all these advisers and people and stop this whole project? I would literally go, I’d say a prayer, I’d look along, and I know this sounds crazy, but I would see the sun setting on the vineyard and I would feel God say, “Pip, this is where your gold is.” And I was like, keep going, keep going, this is where your gold is.
No idea about gold awards. It wasn’t gold awards, I was thinking of finances. These bottles have won gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, gold. Now we’ve won the supreme something for the 2010 Blanc de Blanc, which is incredible. I remembered another day when I was kind of like, ‘stop this is crazy!’ Walked along in the vineyard with Harry on a day with a few clouds in the sky, misty blue sky, walked along, and suddenly I’m saying, Lord, what do we do, what do we do? This rainbow appears. He said, “remember, my promise to you?” Keep going. There’s a rainbow in the sky. I said, “Harry, have you seen that rainbow, where’s that come from?” And that is his promise.
It’s gone on with a lot of faith, a lot of prayer. Our beloved son and daughter-in-law are just as passionate as us, and particularly, with passion for it. We’ll be able to hand on the reins to her, because now, really growing exponentially, and whereas before, people would come and, like when you first came, it was just small growing, growing slowly, slowly, a bit of this, a bit of that. Quite chaotic, really, but just kind of happening and very, very organic at that stage in 2008 when we started. We produced our first wine.
It’s now got so big, she’s now got someone else who works with her, Alex, and it’s just amazing what’s going on. It’s a very exciting story, for me, that is still unfolding. I feel I’ve given birth to something, which, I’m still watching these bottles just blowing and flowing and spreading around the world. I think that when people get an idea of planting a vine or creating wine themselves, however big, maybe one acre, whatever, there is just something you can’t really describe what it is. It’s like you can’t describe giving birth and having a child, but it’s the same thing. It’s just so precious and special and so fulfilling and wonderful. For me, it’s been a story, which is many chapters more to go in the story of it.
AK: Finally, Pip’s winemaker at Wiston Estate, Irishman Dermot Sugrue, spoke quite eloquently about just what makes English wine so very special.
What is so special about English sparkling visa vie other traditional method sparkling wines from around the world?
Dermot Sugrue: I think we have inherently, in England, because our marginal climate for growing grapes, it is said by one of the greatest wine vineyards consultants, Dr. Richard Smart the flying vine doctor, that ‘England, is probably the most marginal country in the world to grow grapes to make wine other than maybe, Sweden. And Swedish wine is getting better and better. I’ve tasted it.’ It’s difficult, it’s difficult, but it is precisely because of that difficulty in ripening grapes in England. Long, cool, growing season that starts early and ends very, very late and you get this beautiful, delineation of flavors, these beautifully defined flavors.
It may be difficult to get a high level of sugar maturity from our grapes, but the physiological level of ripeness in our grapes and the phenological level of ripeness in our grapes, in terms of the flavor compounds is actually astonishing. It’s remarkable. That is what gives our wines more of an inherent likeness to say, vintage Champagne grapes in terms of their concentration of flavor, lower yields, and expression of terrior. These things tend to happen naturally in England because of the cooler growing season and that level of physiological ripeness that’s achieved. This is the basis for making great wine anywhere. This is the basis upon which we can make fantastic sparkling wine here in England.
AK: So you can see what an exciting time this is for English sparkling wine and the British wine industry as a whole. Plantings have tripled since the new millennium. If you haven’t tried a sparkling wine from the UK yet, you owe it to yourself to find out what all the fizz is about. I’m Anne Krebiehl , until next time. Cheers.
Marina Vataj: I’m Marina Vataj, digital content director at Wine Enthusiast Magazine. In today’s wine basics, we’re tackling the unwritten rules of tasting room etiquette.
Showing up in a party bus, making faces after sampling a wine, or bragging about your 4,000 bottle cellar will not put you on with the good graces of any winery. Here are the tips on how to avoid terrible tasting room behavior.
One, reconsider rolling in with a large group. There’s nothing more disappointing than being turned away at the door because you didn’t make a reservation or arrived in a vehicle that’s not permitted. A big group can overtake a tasting room and change the atmosphere, and not all wineries allow it.
Two, follow restaurant etiquette as a guide. If there is a host stand, check in first. If you’re brought to a table with the server, place your order with him or her and be sure to leave gratuity. If it’s a big, open space with a very long bar, then you can assume you’re free to roam.
Three, be unbiased. It’s okay if you aren’t into a wine, but try it and let the staff explain its context, origin and food pairings. Run through the whole flight in the order the staff suggests since a lot of thought probably went into the selection and the order.
Four, savor your sips. Don’t rush through and gulp down a wine with hardly a sniff. Also, don’t overestimate the number of tasting rooms you can hit in one day. A few quality experiences are preferable to numerous and unmemorable pours.
Five, keep your reactions in check. Exaggerated expressions, like shaking your head, calling a wine disgusting, or sticking out your tongue, are actions suited for a toddler. If you don’t like a wine, simply dump it or give it to a friend.
Six, don’t be afraid to spit. Flights may include up to seven wines. To really evaluate them, you can’t drink them all, especially if you plan multiple stops that day. There’s absolutely nothing about spitting that’s uncouth. It’s perfectly normal in wine tasting.
Lastly, be a responsible friend. If a companion has over imbibed, bring them water. Let the staff know and discourage further consumption. After all, an intoxicated person will be much more receptive to a friend cutting them off than a server. I’m Marina Vataj, thanks for listening. For more wine basics tips, visit winemag.com/winebasics.
Host: Blue Apron wine, only the best vineyards and winemakers make the cut for a Blue Apron wine box. Every amazing wine is just ten dollars per bottle. Best of all, each wine comes with a back story on who made it, where and why, all so you understand why the wine tastes and smells the way it does. Want to learn more about wine? Blue Apron is the place to start. Get twenty five dollars off your first shipment at blueapron.com/corkscrew. Terms and conditions apply. All orders are handled by Blue Apron wine Napa, California.
Layla Schlack: Hi, I’m Layla Schlack, senior editor at Wine Enthusiast Magazine with Pared-Down Pairings. Tips for integrating simple foods and flavors into your wine lifestyle. Today, we’re going to talk about feta, because you probably have some in your fridge right now and it might just have to stand in as an hors d’oeuvre one of these days. You want to make sure you pair it well.
First, you should know that not all feta is created equal. In the European Union, feta can only refer to cheese made in Greece from sheep’s milk, with some goat’s milk allowed. Other countries have a looser stance with the term, which is why there are so many cheeses labeled as feta in the U.S. The main thing is to look for one made from sheep’s milk.
Let’s dive into some fun facts. Feta is believed to be one of the oldest cheeses. In fact, there’s a reference to a form of feta in Homer’s Odyssey. The name comes from a word meaning “slice.” Only about 2% on feta in the U.S. actually comes from Greece.
So now that you have some background, let’s get into how to pair this cheese. It’s got assertive, salty, and tangy flavors, layered with creaminess and herb characteristics. Those are what you wanna highlight. It needs a wine with an equally strong personality, high acidity and good structure. My first suggestions would be a high acid Assyrtiko from Santorini, or elsewhere in Greece, or Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé. And if you’re looking to pair a specific feta-centric dish, one of my favorite recipes is a watermelon salad with feta, which I would pair with an off-dry sparkling Xinomavro rosé from Amyntaio.
Another popular Greek dish is a cheese pie made with feta. This is usually quite rich, spicy and salty, and would go well with a high acid aromatic white wine, such as a Moschofilero from Mantinia, or a dry Riesling from Alsace. Thanks for listening. This is Layla Schlack with Pared-Down Pairing.
Host: And you’re listening to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast. Next up, Contributing Editor Anna Lee Iijima talks to a legendary German wine importer about German wines that you should really know about.
Today, it’s an honor to speak with German wine importer Rudi Wiest. Rudi is one of America’s great wine pioneers, who began introducing American consumers to German wines starting in the 1970s. His company, Rudi Wiest Selections, is synonymous with really high-quality wines from unique winemakers and exceptional soils. Rudi is known in the United States as one of the most fervent evangelists of German Riesling. But, today, I’m asking Rudi to tell us, what are the key white German varieties beyond Riesling that American consumers should be seeking out?
ALI: Scheurebe, as some people may be unaware, is a cross breed developed by a certain Dr. Scheure in Germany in the early 1900s. Initially for disease resistance, but really embraced for its intense fruitiness and perfume. Rudi’s producers were two of its original growers.
RW: That’s fairly limited. The major producers of Scheurebe are Pfeffingen and Wirsching. They’re the ones that actually started it. I don’t know if you know that, but Dr. Scheure did an experimental planting in a place called the Annaberg in the Alps, and what’s interesting about that. There was a ’45 Scheurebe TBA that was made from that plot. Karl Fuhrmann, he has since passed away. He is the grandfather of Jan Eimal
He and his wife tasted that TBA and they were so excited that they took cuttings from the Annaberg over to the Herrenberg vinyard at Pfeffingen. What’s really curious about that, somehow, some way, Hans Wirsching, the brother of Mr. Wirsching, he also went down to the Annaberg and took cuttings from there and transferred them up to the Kronsberg in Iphofen, his vineyards. That’s a couple hundred kilometers. He was a very bright guy, and he was the guy that put Wirsching on the map as much as anybody.
Those two guys started with the Scheurebe and Mr. Fuhrmann was known as the King of Scheurebe in Germany for quite a few years.
RW: The Bukettraube was done back in the 1860s. What’s so curious about the whole thing that Dr. Scheuer reached with Riesling over to Bukettraube that was not very popular grape, but bukette suggests aromas. It turns out, bouquette, that’s why I always call the Scheurebe kind of loud. I think the contributor to the loud is the Bukettraube.
What’s unique about it is, you get things lychee, which is really China, and grapefruit, and those are the kind of things that hit you with the Scheurebe. I experienced that when I called a store in San Francisco called Bob’s Liquor. A guy named Don Gillette was there, and next door to that store was a Chinese Market. It was at Auslese that I tasted one. He smelled it, he says, “Rudi? You got a second?” “Yeah, of course!” So he ran next door to the Chinese Market. He got a fresh lychee and popped it for me, and I smelled it and I smelled the wine. I just couldn’t believe the parallel.
I’ve since been saying Sheurebe…I always get lychee first, before I get anything else. An application of Sheurebe is really a very good substitute for Sauvignon Blanc. I did a dinner in Milwaukee, and I didn’t have a Sauvignon Blanc, I talked to Christina Fischer, and Christina Fischer wrote, I think, the definitive book on wine and food pairing. I said, “Christina, what the hell do I do?” Excuse my language. She said, “Well, do you have a Scheurebe?” I said, “Yeah.” “Oh, that’ll work. That’ll work.” It was the match of the evening, believe it or not.
AIJ: Why should American consumers be seeking out German Pinot Gris, known as Grauburgunder, from producers like Salve in Baden or Becker in the Falls?
RW: They just know what to do. Also, they have very old vineyards. The Salve Eichberg, the wines are up to 70 years old. The dirt there is sedimented lava, so it’s different from what Becker has. Becker has the classic limestone soil, and he also has older wines. The better Pinot Gris there almost have a rosé tinge. It’s one of the mutations of Pinot Noir, but it’s the one that’s closest to Pinot Noir as opposed to Pinot Blanc. You don’t see this shade of rosé with Pinot Blanc that you do with Pinot Gris.
AIJ: Silvaner is one of my favorite sleeper German grapes. So few people in America know about it. So little is being imported to the U.S., but when you get your hands on really great examples of Silvaner, it’s really a revelation. Would you say that the strength of Silvaner in your portfolio is a reflection of better viticulture, lower yields, or a greater attention to terroir?
RW: Absolutely. I think it’s winemaking and also dirt. The keuper soil is very, very prominent where Wirsching is at. The keuper soil that’s in those vineyards at Wirsching. Over at Echendorf where sour is at, it’s more sediment and sea life, shell limestone. It’s a little lighter, but his wines are so thick on the palatte. It’s incredible.
AIJ: Tell us a little bit about wines like Silvaner and Scheurebe and how they pair with different foods.
RW: I really like Silvaner a lot. It’s a great food wine. And, of course, the thing that we do in our company, we visit a restaurant. We look at a menu. We don’t just sell wine. We look at the menu, and we try to figure out what will work with the food that’s coming out of the kitchen. We try to deconstruct the dishes on the menu and then recommend accordingly.
For example, in San Francisco, when we discovered the lychee component, that was so strong, I went over to Chinatown, and I sold Scheurebe Gold Caps Auslesen with lychee deserts. I think that rye style is a really good substitute for Sauvignon Blanc, and often a more interesting wine.
AIJ: What makes Silvaner so unique?
RW: You know, even the basic Silvaner’s that we pour by the glass, once people get to know them, they say, “Oh my god, I didn’t know.” Of course, I do tastings and people tell me, “I thought Germany made cars.” I’m not kidding you! “No, they also make wine.” Of course, they make great white wines. They really do. I think Silvaner may be a little be a little more difficult than Pinot Blanc.
AIJ: Pinot Blanc is often overlooked throughout the world as kind of a shyer version of Chardonnay, to which it shares many similarities. In Germany, some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc producers, like Rebholz, are perhaps better known for Pinot Blanc than Chardonnay.
RW: Some of the greatest dry Rieslings that are made on the planet come from Rebholz. But, his Pinot Blanc is as good as it gets, too. He’s always at the top.
AIJ: Let’s talk about grapes like Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is actually quite popular in Germany.
RW: Yeah, we’ve got some really good Sauvignon Blanc producers, too. One of them is Reiner Steikmann. The Austrians, who make a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, they scored his Sauvignon Blanc 94 points. I should send you a bottle, Anna Lee. I have a ’13 that’s left over. I’ll send you a bottle of the Steikmann Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s really great stuff.
AIJ: How would you describe the Sauvignon Blanc. The flavor and the taste. How would you describe it?
RW: It’s just a very layered, complex white wine. It really is.
AIJ: More so than examples that you see from Sancerre or from New Zealand?
RW: There’s also a nutty component in Reiner Steikmann’s Sauvignon Blanc. Brevholz and Steikmann, I think, make some of the best Sauvignon Blancs in Germany.
AIJ: I think the biggest problem for consumers, though, is that most American consumers, in mainstream America, are having a difficult time finding these other German white varieties on the market.
RW: Yeah, it is a problem, but you know what we need to do, Anna Lee? We need to get these wines by the glass, in the restaurants, so you don’t have to buy a whole bottle. You can taste it with a glass.
AIJ: Thank you so much, Rudi.
Today, thanks to importers like Rudi Wiest, Americans have access to an incredible diversity of German wines styles and varieties, and increasingly at higher and higher quality levels. While Riesling may always be king in Germany, there are so many other uniquely expressive grape varieties that Germany has to offer. We hope you’ll take a chance. Maybe try that German Pinot Gris instead of your standby Pinot Grigio, or maybe even a new variety like Scheurebe or Silvaner that you’ve never tasted before. This is Anna Lee Iijima. Thanks for listening.
Host: That’s it for today’s Wine Enthusiast Podcast. To read more about Germany’s other white wines, visit winemag.com, or pick up the October issue of the Wine Enthusiast magazine. You can subscribe to the Wine Enthusiast podcast on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And please, write us a review.
We’d love to hear what you think! We’d also love to stay in touch. Use the #WineEnthusiastMagazine, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Wine Enthusiast podcast is produced by Marina Vataj and Mike Sargent. See you next time!
Last Updated: June 5, 2023