Premium Edition tomorrow: Oregon Pinot
I love Burgundy, but I can't always afford Burgundy, and frankly, although I like California Pinot Noir too, much of it is just plain different. But Oregon? This rising wine region in the Pacific Northwest is gaining a serious reputation for remarkable Pinot Noirs that offer a hint of Burgundian style without merely imitating the French original.
Tomorrow's biweekly Premium Edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor will feature an exceptional Oregon Pinot Noir that can compete with quality Burgundies at twice its price; plus a bonus report on another outstanding Pinot from neighboring Washington State.
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Recalibrating for Germans
Every infrequent time I come back around to a German wine, I say pretty much the same thing: "I wonder why I don't have this good stuff more often."
For that matter, it may be even more surprising that a thumping majority of wine lovers seem to feel the same way: Around the world, German wines occupy only a tiny portion of the space on retail shelves and restaurant wine lists.
It seems as if German wine should be an easy sell, especially for the modern palate, and doubly so for stereotypical American tastes: It's usually slightly sweet, it's light and naturally low in alcohol, and it often combines a luscious fresh fruitiness with steely acidity and intriguing mineral character that sets it well apart from "fruit bomb" styles of wine. And much of the best is made from the Riesling grape, arguably one of the world's most noble and ageworthy white varieties.
But for whatever reason, the stuff just doesn't sell much outside Germany, with the possible exception of the UK, where German Rieslings - nicknamed "Hock" after the Rhine village Hochheim - have been popular since Queen Victoria's time.
The market for German wine may well suffer from their long, jaw-breaking German names and labels that provide almost too much information, much of it arcane and obscure. And there's no doubt that German wines are made in an unexpected "paradigm" for palates accustomed to the style of the dry table wines of France and Italy (and their New World descendants) that most of us admire.
But it's worth suspending your disbelief and, at least temporarily, recalibrating your palate to give them a try. And this might be a good time to do it, as the 2001 and 2002 vintages now widely available were both excellent years. The 2001s are considered "classic," and even 2002 - that stormy season that yielded lackluster crops in much of Europe - apparently turned out well in the Rhine and Mosel, with a sunny, summery year overcoming the effects of rain.
Today's tasting features a relatively modest wine - simply rated Qualitätswein ("Quality Wine") rather than the more sought-after quality levels - from a respected smaller producer, who assembled it from vineyards scattered in the Mosel and its Saar tributary. A Mosel Riesling in the classic style, it offers a good introduction to the region.
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St. Urbans-Hof 2002 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Riesling ($10.99)
This wine, typical of Mosel Rieslings, is almost as pale as water, showing just a light greenish-straw color. Its initial aroma impact shows evidence of a wine made on the yeast "lees" with yeasty, "cheesy" aromas, not unpleasant but speaking more of earth than fruit; it's worth pouring the wine with vigorous aeration a half-hour before serving, though, as these aromas blow off to reveal appetizing juicy, limey citrus fruit. Limes and lemons show on the palate, too, with hints of peach, and light fresh-fruit sweetness fully balanced by steely "minerally" acidity. Gentle 10 percent alcohol makes this an obvious candidate for aperitif quaffing, but its exceptional affinity for food earns it a place at the dinner table. U.S. importer: HB Wine Merchants, NYC. (May 16, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: At the suggestion of German-winefanatic pals, I paired this with a citric, lemony chicken dish and found it an excellent match with chicken breast "scallopine" sauteed with lemon juice and finished with fresh tarragon and a bit of butter.
VALUE: An excellent value in the $10 range.
WHEN TO DRINK: Meant for immediate enjoyment, but Riesling can be an amazing ager; given this wine's good acidity and balance, it should fare well for years in a good cellar.
WEB LINK: The winery Website is available in both German and English:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Compare prices and find sources for 2002 St. Urbans-Hof on Wine-Searcher.com,
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: Returning wine
Ninety-nine times out of 100, when we purchase wine from a retail shop, restaurant or Internet merchant, we're happy with the transaction. We uncork the wine, we drink it, we enjoy it. End of story. But every now and then a bottle of wine proves unsatisfactory. Cork "taint" greets you with a musty, moldy stink, or a brownish color and nutty, Sherrylike aroma show the telltale signs of a wine that's gone around the bend.
This unhappy circumstance raises one of the more difficult issues in wine appreciation: When are you justified in taking wine back for a refund, and how should the merchant respond when you do? For this week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth, we have enumerated a variety of common problems that afflict wine, and invite you to select the circumstances that would prompt you to seek a refund, as we ask, "when do you feel justified in returning a wine?"
To cast your ballot, click to the Voting Booth,
The California Wine Club
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This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Nat Decants: BYOB - The Paper Bag Princess
Report from Slovenia: Ljubljana's 50th
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: When is it okay to return wines?
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Spargel mit Gruner (May 14, 2004)
Low-carb wine: So what? (May 12, 2004)
Eat your veggies, drink your wine (May 10, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Fricot de canard (May 13, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, May 17, 2004