March 27, 2008

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Germans play well with others
Wines from the Rhine are crisp and refreshing
By Tim Protzman†letters@hippopress.com

Some days itís so easy to stay in bed.

Weíve all done it. Taken a sick day when the sickness was burnout. But sometimes the thing that makes you feel better is the exact opposite of what you want to do.

When I get burned out on wine I take that tack. No, I donít force myself to drink wine, but I do push myself to try a different grape, a varietal that I usually ignore. One I judge as ďless than noble.Ē One that usually doesnít get written up in the slick and glossy trade mags. One that if it were a story in People magazine would be about the lady who distributes winter gloves to the homeless and not about J Loís new twins.

Regular grapes, not celebrity grapes.

In my search for a grape that would relieve my wine burnout Iíve gone exotic with Eastern European and Mediterranean varietals. Iíve tasted local fare, old-fashioned North American grapes and even rice wine. But as much as these berries have brought me back on track, theyíve never had the effect that my latest immersion has. And it started on the Internet.

My colleague writes food reviews. He has a rather unusual last name. One I hadnít heard before. But I know first hand that doesnít mean there arenít scads of them out there. In my case, thereís a Protzman in every state. Some are DJs, oneís a policeman, several (including me) like wine and one has an extensive vacation resort portfolio. In my friendís case, he claims heís found not only someone with the same first and last name but ó and hereís where it gets tricky ó he claims heís found an exact copy of himself which is really him from another dimension!

Hereís how it works. In cosmology they have a theory that whenever the universe is confronted with a choice, it chooses everything. In our three-dimensional-plus space/time universe it would look like this:

I go into a wine shop to buy wine. I narrow it to a Nero díAvola and a merlot. I choose the Nero díAvola and at the exact moment I touch the bottle another universe is created where I chose the merlot! Iím laughing now because last night I bought blue bath tissue instantaneously creating a universe where I buy the white, green and pink, which must mean in these parallel worlds my rest room has a different color scheme or Iím less of a stickler for matching bath accessories.

So thatís how my friend became convinced that this Google name twin was really him from a different universe. But heís a bit of an oddball, using his proficiency in the German language to interject words like schadenfreude and weltschmerz into our lunch room conversations. Itís pretentious, but it gave me an idea. Thereíd be no new worlds created by me at the wine store ó I was going Deutsche!

To me German wineís like a friend with benefits; itís good, but just not good enough to have a full-blown relationship with. But the quality of whatís making it to this country has been improving steadily since the European Union began regulating wine laws. Now if you ask a German vintner why they make their wine a certain way youíll get an answer like, ďbecause weíve always done it that way,Ē which means itís a tradition that goes back to when the Romans brought grapes to the Rhine region and we really donít know, weíre just doing what our predecessors did.

I like German wine because itís low in alcohol, sometimes slightly sweet, which provides blessed relief from hostile tannins, and goes well with food. A good German Riesling goes well with Mexican, spicy Italian, Asian, creamy sauces and salads ó all the things that a red fights with. German wine is inexpensive, but not a lot is imported. The labels are confusing, but not indecipherable. Look for Kabinett or Spatlese. This indicates the ripeness of the grape, which translates to flavor. Remember that some wines are left to ferment all the sugar out of the wine, producing stunning flavored juice thatís not sweet.

What I had forgotten was how rich and refreshing German wines can be. They are as different to most wines as Coca Cola is to beer. And from that first sip I was reenergized and really looking forward to tasting more German wines. But first the wish list of German Juice.

I wish that more German reds were available. I wish I could taste the work of smaller producers. Iíd like to have the choice of older vintages. And I want more sekt, or sparkling German wine.

Here are some more German hotties.
ē Clean Slate Riesling ($11.99) From the Mosel region. Flavors of pear juice and clover. Slight sweetness and alcohol.
ē Jakob Demmer Spatlese Rheinhessen ($11.99) Ripe grapes. Nice honey finish.
ē Bereich Nahetal Schlink ($11.99) Auslese ripeness that means lots of sweet. Like a cotton candy treat.


3/13/2008 Complain yourself happy
3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
2/28/2008 Everything must go!
2/21/2008 His & hers bottles
2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
1/24/2008 A drink to them
1/17/2008 Stalking the barking dingo
1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
12/27/2007 Drinking blind
12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
11/22/2007 Thanks for the Napa cabs
11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
11/8/2007 Candy Corn hangover
11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
10/18/2007 Spooky wines
10/11/2007 Location, location, location
10/04/2007 Shiraz history
9/27/2007 Ingenious appellation
9/20/2007 Small world of wines
9/13/2007 How not to get screwed
9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
8/2/2007 Be your own sommelier
7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
7/5/2007 A sustainable buzz
6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja
5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
4/26/2007 Invention-tini
4/19/2007 More 'Mas'
4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesnít sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Gin
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
Mondovino
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olť! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends ó really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
Whiteís OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wineíll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce