By Ron Smith
Many people who will celebrate the end of 2017 and the start of 2018 will do so with a bubbly of some sort. A Prosecco? A fizzante? Champagne? Or, how about a Sekt, Leitz 2016 Rudesheimer riesling trocken from Rheingau, Germany?
For those who are confused by terms ‘Sekt’ and ‘trocken’ on bottles of German wine, trocken means dry in taste, and Sekt means bubbly. When the two are combined on a bottle, it translates into sparkling wine that is best described as off dry or semi-sweet, while a Sekt brut is completely dry.
Grown on some of the steepest south-facing slopes in Germany, where their single-cane cordon system emphasizes fruit quality over quantity, and through hand harvesting to the gentle pressing of the grapes, this wonderful bubbly teases the senses and taste buds like no other sparkling wine.
The DragonStone riesling comes from the Rudesheimer Drachenstein where pure quartzite silica soil lends a trace of saltiness to the orange-flavored wine, which effectively buffers the acidity, making every sip a total enjoyment.
Another wine from the Baden region of Germany is the Heger 2015 pinot blanc ($20 SRP), which has gone through partial malolactic fermentation. The reduced acidity couples the classical honeydew and cantaloupe flavors with a light structure. So lively, crisp and fresh, it is near impossible not to love.
Crossing into France from the Beaujolais region, where light, fruit forward, young red wines proliferate from the gamay grape, is an exceptional example of one that is deep and complex in taste: 2015 Joseph Drouhin Brouuilly with an average SRP of $18.
Planted on steep slopes to capture the full essence of the sun’s impact, and experiencing a pruning technique to control yield, this wine grape almost became nonexistent in 1395 when (according to Wikipedia) the Duke of Burgundy Philippe the Bold outlawed the cultivation of the gamay as being “a very bad and disloyal plant” when the land could be used to produce the more “elegant” pinot noir. Another edict some 60 years later had the effect of pushing the gamay plantings south to the granite based soils of the Beaujolais where it has thrived ever since. Enjoy this “disloyal” wine of great density and character.
When my wife and I visited France a few years ago, we enjoyed tastings of excellent wines, all except for Chablis. I could not find it in any of the restaurants we dined. “No Chablis” we were told, so I ordered chardonnay instead: same grape; not the same wine. True Chablis is an area in the northernmost region of Burgundy, where it is grown in Kimmeridgian limestone soil, which imparts this Chablis with a unique taste like no other: the Drouhin-Vaudon 2015 Chablis.
No American Chablis can come close to the real French Chablis ($18 SRP).
Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.