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RIESLINGS HAVE A RAINBOW- LIKE PROFILE THAT MATCH CHINESE FOOD BEST!

Martin Palmer, owner of Thomas Palmer Fine German Wines (H.K.) Ltd, proudly remarked on food and wine matching in our interview with him recently. He found his company in Hong Kong in December 2008 and most of the wines in his portfolio come from Nahe, his home region of Germany.

Nahe, one of the 13 wine regions in Germany, represents 4% of German wines production, including both the King (Riesling) and the Queen (Pinot Noir / Spätburgunder) of wines.

Winemaking in Nahe originated some 2,000 years ago when the Romans brought over baby vines and winemakers to Western Europe. The region is renowned for its wide diversity of soils within a small area, with different slates (red, blue, grey), chalk, gravelly loam, quartzite etc. interspersed over the region, ending up with a more complex and unique soil profile than any other wine regions in Germany; not even Burgundy can rival its soil diversity.

According to Martin, a 5 minutes walk in the region will find 100% different Riesling and Spätburgunder wines as the soil diversities will all be reflected in the wine flavors. Red slate with high iron content will increase the wine's minerality and the chalk content in soil can actually be tasted in the wine. For instance, his Tesch Koenigsschild VDP GROSSE LAGE Riesling Dry is a good example for chalk flavors.

Diverse mesoclimate along the Nahe River extends the wine spectrum in the area. Nahe River meanders 160 - 170m from south and joins the Rhine River in Rheingau in the north. With most of the vineyards located along the banks, the humidity from the river gives rise to botrytis (noble rot) which ushers in Auslese, BA and TBA wines. Nahe's climate is basically continental with dry summers and cold winters. The dry summer offers "nice stress" for the roots to dig deep down up to 10 metres for water and hence, absorbing minerals from the soils. It also provides a "long ripening period" for late ripeners -- Riesling and Spätburgunder. Different wine levels can then be achieved by picking grapes at different ripeness. For entry level, harvest will start at end of September, kabinett in early October, spätlese in mid October, auslese at end of October to early Nov. Most of Martin's wines are dry but he also have Riesling with different sweetness levels. In Martin's words, Riesling's profile is like a rainbow ranging from medium sweet (feinherb) to sweet (Kabinett, spatlese) and ultra sweet (Auslese, Eiswein , BA, TBA). Of the 9 VDP wineries in Nahe, Martin has 5 VDP wineries in his portfolio. All of them are from VDP GROSSE LAGE (meaning grand cru) vineyards.

When it comes to food matching, Riesling is capable of matching different provincial dishes in China. The young dry Riesling with lighter body is a good match to Cantonese dim sum such as prawn dumplings while those with high acidity and residual sugar will pair great with Hangzhou / Shanghai / Szechuan dishes that are more salty, oily or spicy. Martin's favorite match is 2010 Schäfer Fröhlich Felseneck VDP GROSSE LAGE Riesling "Grosses Gewächs" "First Growth" Dry to Stir-fried Lobster with Scallion and Ginger. This wine is from one parcel in a single vineyard, with low yield of 25 hectolitre / hectare, and annual production of 900 cases and they can comfortably age up to 50 years. The wine won the 2009 Riesling Cup, the2010 Best Winemaker for its winemaker and the winery has also just won the 2013 German Riesling Champion.

Another match is 2007 Schäfer Fröhlich Bockenauer VDP GROSSE LAGE Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) for Peking Duck or Stir-fried Beef with Scallion in Oyster sauce. This wine has 14% alcohol, medium tannins, high acidity, intensely concentrated and full bodied. It is fermented and aged in new German oak, with low yield of 20 hectolitre / hectare, unchaptalized and unfiltered. Martin is confident that this wine can age for 50 years as "wine ageability is already in its DNA", very much a product from Nahe's diverse soil complexity.

Photo Source: Thomas Palmer Fine German Wines (H.K.) Ltd

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Text : Salina Fok, WSET Diploma Student 11 Oct 2013
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