Tasting Wine: Notable spring wine from Germany

Last week, I recommended great wines from Spain perfect for late spring. This week, we are off to Germany.

German white wines are a natural for warmer weather because, as a rule, they have less alcohol, and high acidity, making them particularly refreshing. You may think that all German whites are sweet, but that is not the case. Many are fermented dry, and even those that have some residual sugar can be so well-balanced, they finish dry.

German reds are also on the rise. While dornfelder is still the most widely planted red wine grape in Germany, spatburgunder, aka pinot noir, has become more widespread in the last few years. Pinot noir picks up a lot of flavor from its soil, especially in areas as cool as Germany; like the whites, the spatburgunders (as well as other reds) have a good dose of minerality.

While it’s never easy to whittle down the choices for my weekly recommendations — especially when it comes to wine from Germany — these three are too good not to know about.

Dr. H. Thanisch Pinot Noir, 2005 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany) — Riesling is unquestionably the most popular and regal grape in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, where the soil is similar to the Ahr, a red-wine-dominated area nearby where a lot of pinot noir is grown. So it is not a huge wonder that Thanisch, a very good producer, has a success with its rendition of this Burgundy grape. It has a captivating perfumed aroma — revealing a floral, mineral scent found in the Mosel’s whites — with raspberry, cherry fruit and a drop of caramel, bright acid and long, minerally finish. Suggested retail:$22

Becker Landgraf Riesling Spatlese Olberg, 2006 (Rheinhessen, Germany) — What is now Becker Landgraf has been in Julia Landgraf’s family since the 1600s. Upon the marriage of Julia to John Landgraf, a trained enologist, the name changed, and this property, which has flown below the radar, now is getting some notice. This is a lovely and lively wine with characteristic Rheinhessen peach fruit and tropical nuances underscored by crisp minerality. Suggested retail: $18

Kunstler Estate Riesling Dry, 2006 (Rheingau, Germany) — Originally from Moravia, the Kunstler family has been making wine for 360 years. After World War II , the family became refugees in Germany. Franz, who as a teenager was in charge of the family vineyards in Moravia, found work at a winery in Baden. By the mid-1960s he was able to purchase land in the Rheingau; 40 years later, this is arguably one of the best estates in all of Germany. Gunter, Franz’s son, now makes the wine, which is pretty generally spectacular, this dry riesling being no exception. With brilliant peach, mango flavors and a tart, thirst-quenching finish, this wine is ideal for drinking during the next four months (or longer). Suggested retail: $25

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV WineBar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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