Another Friday night and another German Riesling! This Carl Sittmann Riesling is pretty common in the US, and it’s pretty cheap. The 2011 vintage is only $9.99 at Gary’s Wine.
Sadly, the wine quality matches the price! It’s not bad, but not great either. There’s a faint floral smell with a sweetish taste. It’s not super sweet, but definitely not dry. The main problem is there’s just not much other taste…
My verdict? A cheap sweet swirl in the mouth is all you’ll get out of this one. It’s especially disappointing considering you could get a great Riesling for around $20 (e.g., Gunderloch). But if you’re looking for an easy-to-drink cheap sweet wine, then this is it!
I was at Terroir Wine Bar last week with friends and asked the bartender for an off-dry Riesling like the Gunderloch I love so much. He recommended this Feinherb (which actually means “off-dry” i.e., a tiny bit sweet), which was delicious. It was a reasonably crisp wine with a delicious understated sweetness. The fruit wasn’t overpowering. Overall, very enjoyable easy drinking.
I needed to buy a bottle of wine to meet the minimum for a credit card transaction at my local wine store, and so I fell back on some German riesling. I felt like the chances were that it’d taste ok.
I knew that it was going to be a sweet wine (the low alcohol percentage of 8% gave it away pretty quickly), but I didn’t realize it was going to be literally sugar water with some alcoholic buzz.
It’s definitely not a great riesling – it’s not fruity and has no real “taste” except for sweetness, but that’s actually appealing to some drinkers (I used to be one of those drinkers!). Personally, although I like my sweet rieslings, I’ve grown to enjoy a greater variety of flavors, especially delicate fruity flavors. But, for $12.99 from the wine store on 9th Ave between 36th and 37th in New York, it’s not bad (I couldn’t have expected too much more to be fair!).
I’ve been secretly enjoying my sumptuous bottle of Glühwein for the past few days without telling you! Glühwein is the German version of what the English call “mulled wine.” It’s basically a spiced red wine served warm (usually spiced with ingredients such as cinnamon, sugar, cloves, vanilla, and lemon peel). This type of wine seems to be popular throughout Europe and is known by a different name in every country! For example, it’s called “vin fiert” in Romania (yes, I got that off Wikipedia so please don’t quote me!). This is really just the perfect drink for this season as it helps to keep you nice and toasty on the inside and rosy on the outside. Imagine yourself in southern Germany walking through a beautiful Christmas market (Weihnachtsmarkts), holding a steaming cup of this wine in your hands as you peruse the market’s wares. If you have trouble picturing this, try squinting at the label on this wine bottle (see the bottom of this post) – it shows one of these traditional markets.
Let me tell you about this particular wine. It comes in a large, 1-liter, brown bottle, and it’s best served warm (although they say that it can also be drunk cold). Honestly, a warm glass of this on a blustery winter day will melt all your troubles away! And for me, it really does just take one glass! Don’t let that 10% alcohol label fool you, because I’m pretty sure the hot vapors or something in this wine gets you drunk real fast! As for how to heat it, I think the traditional way is to do it in a saucepan, but I’m lazy and will just put it in the microwave. I usually put around 3 or 4 shots worth into a small microwavable juice glass and heat it for 15 seconds. Just make sure you don’t boil it!
What does it taste like? A bit like warm sangria actually. You can definitely taste the citrus in this as well as that generous splash of cinnamon. It’s also nice and sweet, although I don’t think it’s sickeningly sweet. However, it is definitely a drink to sip slowly and enjoy. Maybe drink the bottle with friends after a night out in the cold or just save it for yourself to drink over several days. I’ll write a review about how I keep my wine fresh in a few days so you can do the same.
Price: dirt cheap at $7.99 for a 1-liter bottle! Where to buy? You guessed it – Astor Wine and Spirits. I honestly do not work for them!
What could be more German than a meal of sausages and sauerkraut with a glass of riesling. It almost fills me with compulsion to spew out some random German phrases I picked up during my time in Stuttgart, but I’m going to save it for another day, especially since more German wines are going to be consumed in the near future. In fact, I’m planning a very seasonal review of Glühwein! If you haven’t come across Glühwein, or what the English call “mulled wine,” it’s a spiced red wine served warm and often drank during the winter months. Check back soon for that review.
Back to rieslings… Rieslings are generally known to be a sweet white wine, but there are actually several levels of sweetness, and you can tell how sweet the wine is by the label on the bottle. This wine has the label “Kabinett” attached to it, which indicates that it is considered “off-dry” i.e. there’s a little bit of sugar in it, but not much. If the wine is sweeter (i.e. the grape was left on the vine for longer before it was harvested), then the term “Spätlese” is used to describe it. For super sweet (almost dessert-wine style) reislings, “Auslese” is used. There are even sweeter German wines, so if you’re in the market for a dessert wine, look out for labels such as “Beerenauslese,” “Trockenbeerenauslese,” and “Eiswein.” However, if you just see the word “trocken” by itself on the label of a German wine, then it means that the wine is super dry (i.e. no residual sugar). Another way of estimating how sweet a wine is is to look at its alcohol content. A low alcohol content usually equates to a sweet wine. This is why some sweet rieslings have very low alcohol percentages e.g. 9%.
Onto the actual wine itself. This is my favorite riesling because it has that quintessential fruity, floral riesling smell but none of that nauseating sweetness that can sometimes be associated with rieslings. It has a very delicate yet refreshing grapefruit taste that just leaves you aching for more. The Kabinett label on the wine tells you that it has very little residual sugar, but there’s a subtle fruity essence to the taste that tricks your mind into thinking it’s sweet! I can enjoy this bottle by itself anytime. However, it does go great with food as evidenced by the fact that the 2008 version of this wine is on the wine list at Gordon Ramsey’s 2 Michelin star restaurant in New York ($52 for a bottle or $12 for a glass). In fact, that’s where I first discovered this wine. But if you just want to buy a bottle to drink at home, then you can get the 2009 one, which is shown in the photos, for $20.99 at Astor Wines and Spirits.