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By The Glass


Wednesday, January 22, 2003

2001 a legendary
vintage for Germany

With fabulous vintages from Bordeaux (2000), California (1999) and Italy (1999), red wine has drawn most of the attention of wine consumers. Whites haven't generated the same kind of fervor -- until now.

The 2001 German rieslings are some of the best to come down the pipe in years. I have not seen so much excitement for German wines in decades.

These wines have fruit and acidity in huge amounts, while maintaining balance, elegance and sense of terroir -- reflecting the characteristics of the area where the grapes were grown.

A "Golden October" helped develop the grapes to ripe levels and brought sugars and acids into harmony. Many kabinetts have the qualities of spatleses, and spatleses the qualities of ausleses (these terms refer to the level of ripeness of the grapes, in increasing order).

The wines are fresh and beautiful now -- although some have a typical light spritz that eventually disappears -- and they can age 20 to 30 years.

Here are some top reasons to drink German wines:

>> They age well, especially the sweeter ones such as auslese and ice wine. I have had 30-year-old rieslings that were amazing.

>> They are most the versatile wines, unpretentious enough to suck down with a plate lunch, good enough to eat with a gourmet meal, and interesting enough to drink by themselves. Some natural matches are seafood, Pacific Rim cuisine, slightly spicy foods such as Chinese or Thai, as well as sushi and vegetarian dishes.

>> German wines are often lower in alcohol (usually 7 to 10 percent, compared to the 13 to 15 percent of other wines). And they are pure. No commercial yeast fermentations, no acidification and NO OAK!

>> They please connoisseurs, delight casual wine drinkers and surprise non-drinkers. Not all German wines are sweet. They run the gamut from sweet eisweins, to spatleses with the sweetness of an apple, to bone-dry trocken.

>> German wines are affordable. You'll rarely find a bottle costing more than $75. Most sell for less than $30, and the $10-to-$20 range is full of high-quality, interesting wines.

Just about anything from the 2001 vintage is going to be good, but here are a few to look for:

2001 Dr. Weins Prum Wehlener Sonnenheur Riesling Kabinett ($12 to $14): Grapefruit with a touch of pineapple. Builds momentum with each sip.

2001 Grans-Fassian Trittenheimer Riesling Kabinett ($18 to $20): Known in Germany as a top-notch producer which is just gaining recognition in export markets. Impeccable balance. Light apple fruit. Rich and lingering finish. Very easy to drink.

2001 Gunderloch Riesling Kabinett Jean Baptiste ($18 to $20): Not very sweet at all. Citrus and lemon rind flavors, followed by a mineral quality that rounds out and lengthens the wine.

Jay Kam is president of Vintage Wine Cellar.

This column is a weekly lesson in wine
pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
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