Monday, June 16, 2014

The Germans Arrive at the World Cup

Another World Cup match. Another wine to celebrate a big win. Today's game featured two of the early favourites - Germany and Portugal - but I don't think anyone would have come close to predicting a 4-0 win for Germany. There may be a whack of Portugese fans drowning their sorrows tonight but the German win calls for a German wine.

It's likely a good thing that Germany won because the wine needed to pair with the chirashi sushi bowl that we were serving up for dinner. Something tells me that a German Riesling is an infinitely tastier match to the evening's seafood than a big Portugese red or Port could ever be. To further complicate the flavour profile needed, our chirashi bowl was uncharacteristically loaded with uni (sea urchin gonads for the uninitiated) - not that I'd have any concept of what goes best with uni. Other than to guess that maybe sake or beer would work since those are the most common beverages in the Japanese restaurants I've been to.

Why sea urchin? You may ask. While at the Steveston docks the other day, I ran across a fisherman selling live urchins at the bargain price of three for $10. I don't think I've ever seen live sea urchin for sale before. Despite the fact that uni would not the first dish I order in a restaurant, I pretty well had to buy them.

What I didn't know is that the little guy's spines keep moving even after you cut into the shell. I can definitely tell you now though - should you be so inclined to try this at home - that digging out the gonads is not the easiest or cleanest kitchen activity, but it was certainly an interesting hour or so.

Luckily, the wine was much easier to open.

1632.  2012 Dönnhoff - Höllenpfad Riesling (Trocken - Nahe - Germany)

A buddy of mine, Bug Boy, has been making regular trips to Germany lately for family reasons and I asked him how he's enjoying all the Rieslings that he must be bringing home. He'd looked at me and said that it hadn't dawned on him to bring back a single bottle because he doesn't drink the stuff. A couple weeks later, he showed up on my door step with a couple bottles - this baby included.

As much as Riesling and I are the best of friends, I don't tend to drink a lot of German Riesling - likely because I'm just not familiar with the producers and I assume that the majority of German Rieslings found on Vancouver shelves are generic brand wines - unless they're priced well in excess of a Tuesday night. I knew nothing of tonight's wine before opening it.

It would appear that the Dönnhoff family has owned a modest estate in the Nahe region for over 250 years. Helmut Dönnhoff, the current owner, has been at the helm of the winery since 1971 and is renowned in the region - and country - to the point of being named "German Winemaker of the Year" in 1999.

Despite the pedigree behind the winery, the Höllenpfad vineyard is a recent addition to the family's holdings and this 2012 is only the second vintage for Dönnhoff. I quite liked reading that "Höllenpfad" translates to "path to hell" in English. The winery website notes that the name appears to have originated from all the hellishly hard work involved in growing and harvesting grapes on the very steep slope and/or from the fact that the vineyard soil is largely made up of red sandstone and, in the evening, it reflects the setting sun, casting a red glow as you look back upon the vineyard.

The wine was all minerality and lime and was austere enough that I might have taken it for one of the many Aussie Reislings I've thrown back over the years. This was far from your mother's Blue Nun or Black Tower (which I think might still be around although I doubt the flavour profile is the same as it was back in the 80's). The website states that a portion of the wine sees some ageing in oak barrels as well as stainless steel. I didn't catch any notes of the oak myself but I understand Orofino, one of our favourite BC wineries, ages one of its Rieslings with some oak exposure as well. So, I suppose ageing Riesling in oak isn't necessarily all that foreign of a concept after all.

The Riesling might not have been the perfect match for uni but I still figure it was a far better accompaniment than Port. So, bravo for the German win and to the German wine it prompted. If this match is any indication of the tournament to come, there should be plenty more opportunities for German wines.

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