Lost in Deutschland

The Gewürztraminer smelled like Bubblicious and tasted of faux blueberries.

This week’s heroine is a white-wine devotee who finds herself lost in München during Oktoberfest. Picture our poor Fräulein dodging horse-drawn brewer’s carts and lederhosen-clad musicians during one of the festival’s numerous parades.

Now imagine her instead in a covert cafe far from the madding crowd, contentedly sipping Riesling from one of the renowned German vineyards to the north, or giggling after one too many glasses of Gewürztraminer.

Lucky for her, Oktoberfest is only two weeks long. It’s November now, and while the beer-crazed cavorters may still be recovering, the festival’s estimated 1,000 tons of garbage have long ago been hauled away. It’s time to break out the white wine, and Riesling and Gewürztraminer are two great choices. In recent years, the former has been praised for its light, refreshing flavor and pleasant apple-like acidity. While it can range dramatically from dry to sweet, the drier Rieslings are often recommended as a perfect accompaniment to that Thanksgiving turkey. Gewürztraminer, on the other hand, is known for its floral lusciousness — it’s probably the easiest varietal to recognize by aroma alone.

The two Rieslings of our latest tasting both hailed from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region anchored by the serpentine Mosel River, whose banks are so steep that vines are sometimes planted at a 70-degree gradient. Both wines were light and mineraly, with pear and lemon flavors. Winning points for the prettiest label was the 2004 Bloom ($8.99), which our token winemaker characterized as a zippy wine with a slight sweetness — good to sip while paying attention to something else.

“Lemon meringue pie” is how one taster characterized the Dr. Beckermann 2005 Piesporter Michelsberg Spätlese, the bargain of our tasting at $4.99. This was a light, even wine — pleasant, without noticeable flaws or a lingering aftertaste, and it was easy to imagine as an accompaniment to a fruity or spicy dish like chutney or curry. Ever the scientist, our token winemaker found it overly sulfurous, reminiscent of his childhood habit of chewing on burnt match heads.

If these two Rieslings were all about subtlety and refinement, the third wine of our tasting — the Villa Wolf 2005 Gewürztraminer ($12.99), from the prolific Pfalz region — made its presence known like a loud, heavily perfumed dinner guest. A heavy floral aroma gave a hint of the cloying sweetness that would follow. “Not enough acid,” complained one taster, while I smelled Bubblicious, tasted faux blueberries, and was left with a bitter green aftertaste. Perhaps fans of Gewürztraminer’s typical fruit-forward richness could appreciate this wine’s pungency. We didn’t.

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