Tis currently the season when beer usually receives way more attention in Germany than wine. But living in Northern Germany, I’ve managed to tune out Oktoberfest this year and instead hosted a small wine evening — the first official gathering in my new apartment. The theme of the evening was a comparison of German and American wines, so I invited a nice group of German and American friends over, along with a couple of other nationalities to keep things interesting!
For the event, Ludwig von Kapff sent over this fantastic selection of German and American reds and whites…*
In total, there were two German white wines — a Riesling and a Chardonnay/Weißburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc) mix — and one German red — a Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir). Personally, I’ve always found Germany’s Spätburgunder wines to be my favorites, but I kept my mind open for the evening! The American wines consisted of one white — a Chardonnay — and two reds — a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Syrah mix and a Zinfandel.
Anticipating that the actual wine tasting might get a little lost as the evening wore on, I created a placeholder for each wine with some important information, like: key tasting notes, grape sorts, vineyard, awards, and so on.
Without a doubt, there are plenty of differences between American and German wines. Growing up near Washington State’s own wine country, I somehow arrived at the perception that European wines are more sophisticated and refined, while American wines are more innovative and bold. This might have to do with typical American preferences for a flavorful wine that can be enjoyed on its own, as compared to a more European preference for a subdued wine to complement a meal. It also seemed to me that Americans as opposed to Europeans were typically more than happy to experiment with wines from less traditional regions of the world, like South Africa, Chile, and Australia. These are huge generalizations, for sure, which I wanted to put up for discussion.
An Argentinean friend with an admitted bias towards Argentinean Malbecs, said if he was going to drink a white wine, he wouldn’t hesitate to reach for a German Rieslings, even in Argentina. For him, it’s about recognizing the strengths of countries’ wine regions. One of the most surprising insights of the evening was the professed love of some of my German friends for Californian wines — indeed, you might even call it a guilty pleasure! Why so? With all of the outstanding German and European wines at their fingertips, the ecological footprint left by shipping wines from the US to Germany may indeed induce a bit of guilt among the eco-conscious. While the environmental consciousness of Germans in general has always impressed me and doesn’t come as any surprise, I was quite happy to have my wine preconceptions blown away by my Californian-wine-loving German friends!
With that said, perhaps the clear winner of the evening will come as less of surprise? The Fetzer Zinfandel — brand new to Ludwig von Kapff’s selection of wines — was a definite crowd pleaser. Hailing from California, this full-bodied wine boasts a strong note of dark berries and slight hints of spice and black pepper. Earning them bonus points in my book, the Fetzter vineyards pride themselves on starting a “winemaking revolution” and are committed to environmentally sustainable practices in wine production. Maybe that will help take some of the edge off of that guilty pleasure? :)
All in the all, it was an outstanding evening full of conversation with great wine and even better friends!
* Many thanks to Ludwig von Kapff for providing the wine for this evening, and to my friends for sharing their thoughts on wine. There are no affiliate links in this post. *