What the Sekt?
German wines are my nemesis.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Müller-Thurgau, Dornfelder and have never turned down a Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) or crisp, dry Riesling. However, understanding the Oechsle scale, or reciting Germany’s 13 recognized wine regions (let alone pointing to one on a blank map) is a whole different ballgame!
If you’re following me on Instagram you probably know that I’m currently pursuing the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) post-nominal. If there is a silver-lining during the coronavirus pandemic, it is that we now have more down time. For me, that has meant time to focus on things that had been put on the back-burner for way too long, and my formal wine education is one of them. It’s hard when you are working 6-7 days a week, I was literally doing the work everyday! I’ve spent more than a decade meeting with and learning from the very best importers, educators and winemakers from around the world. They all helped form my own, unique style of wine education and influenced how I share my passion with others. Covid-19 took away my hectic schedule of meetings, tastings, events and marketing campaigns. Finally, I will have earned the coveted CSW credential by the end of the year. IF I can tackle the complicated and confusing world of German wines, the only region I struggle with. For the exam, I must be able to successfully accomplish the following:
- Disscuss the general role and position of Germany in the global wine industry.
- Indentify the grape varieties and wine styles of the key wine regions of Germany.
- Understand the heirarcharcy of wine designations from Wein to Prädikatswein, along with the progression of Prädikat levels from Kabinett to Trockenbeerenauslese- in ascending order!
- Discuss the differences among Anbaugebiete, Bereiche, Grosslagen, and Einzellagen.
- Recall the physical location and general climate of Germany’s 13 wine regions.
You can’t fully appreciate what you can’t comprehend. So, I spent the long Labor Day weekend doing a deep dive into Germany even though my CSW prep class has moved on to conquer new terroir. It's not work if you love it, right? I purchased a plethora of German wines, wrote tasting notes, pulled out my handmade flashcards and completed dozens of map exercises. This was a great opportunity to revisit the course learning objectives and dig a little deeper for my own research.
The stand-out wine of the weekend was definitely Hild Elbling Brut Sekt NV from the Upper Mosel. Sekt is the German word for sparkling wine and just may be Germany’s best-kept secret! This vibrant cuvée is 100% Elbling and produced in the traditional method. It's bone-dry and bursting with aromas and flavors of green apple, pear, grapefruit and lemon pith with a super-chalky acidity. After harvest the Sekt goes through a 21-day cold fermentation in stainless steel. After malolactic fermentation the wine is stored on its lees for 9-18 months until disgorgement.
The Mosel is probably the best-known of Germany’s official wine regions, the third largest in terms of production, and famous for its high-acid Rieslings. The Upper Mosel has nothing to do with Riesling or slate soils, it’s all about limestone and Elbling– the grape the Germans like to keep for themselves! One of Europe’s oldest grapes, Elbling is said to have arrived in Germany with the Romans more than 2000 years ago. It has faded into relative obscurity with the introduction of more commercially viable vines.
I’ve had some amazing Sekt over the years, but Matthias Hild has taken it to a whole other level. His wines are refreshing and energetic. He considers the making of this wine an act of cultural preservation as so many people have abandoned their land and stopped making wine from this grape. The financial realities simply do not add up, but he diligently works these old, steep, hillside vineyards by hand and accepts their low yields. Is he a romantic or a crazy man? I'm not sure, probably a bit of both, but I want to thank him for sharing the fruits of his labor with me and giving this old (well-aged?) wine student something to truly love about German wine, not just research and memorize.
My German wine education is far from over, but at least now I won't dread the process.
I will instead savor the journey. Thank you, Matthias!