Yes, the German wine classification system is difficult to decipher, as well as to pronounce. And yes, the wines could seem off-putting to American palates accustomed to manly red and oak-laden white. But when summer comes to
That’s because German wine is low in alcohol and sweet — and neither of these are bad things. Sweet has a nasty reputation in this country, mostly because of white zinfandel but also because so much sweet wine is poorly made. As for the alcohol: You can struggle to drink a cabernet on a 101-degree day, sweat dripping down your face. Or you can sip a chilled German riesling, which may have half the alcohol of the cabernet. What sounds better?
The mark of an open-minded wine drinker, in fact, is his approach to German wine. Don’t dismiss it out of hand. Taste it, and see how the sweetness is balanced by the acidity (often a subtle lemon). Look for the minerality, another important component, and see how that plays off the sweetness.
Where to get started with German wine?
• German wines with non-German labels. These are made for sale in this country, which means they don’t have to deal with the classification system. Hence bottles such as Polka Dot and Moselland Ars Vitis, with pretty labels, an absence of vowels, a $10 price tag, and a touch sweet with decent acidity.
• Look for a dependable German producer, such as Dr. Loosen, Loosen Bros. or Rudolf Muller. They sell a variety of wines in the $12-$15 range that are good places to begin.
• Eiswein. The grapes are allowed to freeze on the vines before they’re picked, which produces a sweet, rich, intriguing dessert wine with incredible fruity aromas. The production process is more costly, so these wines aren’t cheap — $30 or $40 for a quality half bottle. Give this wine for a gift or serve for a special summer occasion. —JEFF SIEGEL
SHRIMP ON THE BARBIE
Takes 45-60 minutes start to finish
2 lbs. fresh or frozen shrimp, shells on (size 31-40 is OK)
2 cups best quality olive oil
3 lemons, sliced and juiced
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp crushed black pepper
1 tsp red pepper
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350. Wash the shrimp, then combine all ingredients in a baking pan big enough to hold most of the shrimp in one layer. Bake 20 to 40 minutes, mixing occasionally, until shrimp turn rosy pink and are firm but not tough.
Ask the wine guy
Q: Are blended wines — wines made with more than one kind of grape — as good as wines that are made with just one grape? I’ve heard that you should always buy cabernet sauvignon instead of a cabernet blend.
A: This is one of the biggest misconceptions among consumers. The great wines of
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