Life can throw you a curveball at any time. Luckily, no matter what’s going on, there’s always an appropriate German wine for the occasion. German winemakers embrace a combination of tradition and innovation, and work with a diverse array of varietals and styles of wine. Think Riesling and Silvaner and Lemberger but also Pinot (in Noir, Gris and Blanc morphs) and Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. From some of the world’s driest wines to rich dessert wines, from still to sparkling, single varietal to blends, you’ll find it all in Germany’s 13 distinct wine-growing regions.
Germany is well-known for its aromatic white wines, but also features some fruit-forward reds with lots of personality. It’s a given that they pair with food, but we’d also like to recommend some “experience pairings” as we head into the time of year when people like to exchange gifts and share food… and sometimes need to take the edge off.
Your situation: Grown-Up Halloween
Your German Wine: Riesling Kabinett
When a Riesling is labeled Kabinett, you can depend on it to be off-dry. In other words, it’s not a bone-dry, Trocken-style Riesling, but it’s not a dessert wine either. The balance of ripping acidity with a touch of sweetness does make for the perfect pairing for Halloween candy. You’ve waited for the sugar-high to burn off after trick-or-treating and now your little monsters, princesses and monster-princesses are asleep. Get into their candy! Riesling Kabinett has fruity apple and citrus flavors for Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Starburst and jellybeans. In fact, you don’t have to restrict this to Halloween. Pair Riesling Kabinett with gummy bears or candy corn all year. Because no one can stop you.
Your Situation: Family Dinner
Your German Wine: Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder in German)
Pinot Noir is a classic pairing for many meat dishes (notably turkey, salmon, pork loin and duck). For that matter, it’s also great with mushrooms, blue cheeses and potato-based dishes, so vegetarians needn’t feel left out. Its dense aromatic layers, versatile fruit notes, and distinctive combination of earthiness and bright acidity make it one of the most flexible wines for the dinner table (hint, hint, Thanksgiving). Light body and spice notes are defining characteristics of German Pinot Noir. It can range from the soft and somewhat subdued style you’ll appreciate if you like Pinot from other parts of Europe, to a more intense style familiar to drinkers of New World Pinot.
Your Situation: Tailgating
Your German Wine: Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder in German)
Pinot Gris is an approachable and versatile wine that could pair with some traditional tailgate-style foods. As a medium-bodied aromatic white, it’s also one of the varietals likely to be bottled with a tailgate-friendly screwcap closure. It’s not uncommon for German Pinot Gris to see some oak time, resulting in a more full-bodied expression of the grape, possessing lemon and orchard fruit notes but also spices and nuttiness and a trace of toast.
Your Situation: The New Season of The Crown Is Streaming
Your German Wine: Riesling Trocken
The perfect beverage to open while you check in with the British royal family is made from the undisputed monarch of German grapes: Riesling. The term “Trocken” on a Riesling bottle means the wine has less than 9g of residual sugar. In other words, it’s dry—drier than a salty quip from Olivia Colman in a tiara. This style of Riesling can have a variety of aromas and flavors, which vary depending on the appellation. Common threads include Meyer lemon and lime zest, honeysuckle, peach and pineapple. You can depend on Riesling to have a lavish, “jump out of the glass” bouquet and a bone-chilling acidity even when even when served very chilled. Which you should do, in honor of the flinty and occasionally icy Queen of England.
Your Situation: Holiday Party
Your German Wine: Silvaner
This unique German grape can be a fun conversation starter, especially in a traditional short-necked and ovoid bocksbeutel bottle. Friends, family or coworkers will be blown away by your BYOB skills and wine savvy. Impress them by talking about why Silvaner is so versatile—it’s accessible, with an easygoing, crowd-pleaser combination of being a little different and being quite neutral-it won’t dominate the food and it’s easy to sip with most anything. Silvaner is a lithe and sometimes ephemeral wine with leaf notes that will please Sauvignon Blanc fans, a pronounced minerality that should appeal to Chenin Blanc drinkers, and a refusal to go fruit-crazy that will appeal to anyone who is tired of Chardonnay.
Your Situation: Popping On Your Favorite Record
Your German Wine: Sekt
Sparkling wine is often associated with celebrations, but it goes far beyond that, especially in Germany, where it’s called Sekt. You don’t need to save your Sekt for a special occasion—drink it when you’re literally not doing a dang thing. The Pinot and Chardonnay blends that are de rigeur in Champagne are fairly widespread in German bubbly, but Sekt is also made from Riesling, Silvaner, Gewürtztraminer, and a number of other varietals. The “little black dress” of the wine world, Sekt basically goes with everything. Even your reggae collection.
Your Situation: Sneaking Sips into the New Star Wars Screening
Your German Wine: Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder in German)
Let’s be completely honest. Sometimes you can’t sit through a two-hour sci-fi flick without a little pick-me-up. If you’ve got a clone war, a scrappy hero’s journey through a galaxy far, far away, or if you need to take the edge off something with Jar-Jar in it-consider an oaked Pinot Blanc from Germany. When aged in oak, the butter and toast notes it picked up from the barrel will make it a perfect popcorn wine.