Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A Berlin Wine Experience: Ich Bin Ein Berliner

Everyone should have their happy place. If you haven't found yours yet, then I suggest checking out Berlin. For me, it is one of the coolest places on the planet; I tend to go there at least once a year - partly to visit my in-laws, but also because I just love the place. As a capital city it is incredibly chilled out and relaxed (although in comparison to London most cities are...), and having studied history, it is a city where the past feels so near and so vivid. However as someone who, above all else, appreciates the noble grape, Berlin is quite simply an awesome place to be.

I have long had a penchant for German wines and, in particular, Rieslings. Last month I headed over to Berlin for Easter and was fortunate enough to find a couple of excellent places that I would certainly recommend to anyone looking to experience some of that noblest of noble grapes. 

First up I went to one of the most famous wine bars in Berlin, Rutz, which is in the district known as the Mitte (the middle). This charming venue is a shop that sells wine to take-away and has a restaurant which has a pretty good reputation, but I was visiting it for its wine bar. We were presented with their wine list, which is a fairly weighty tome, so we decided that the sensible thing to do was to take a wine tasting flight (at €15/person). The waiters tailored the tasting to my interests, which were that I wanted to taste some of their more interesting German wines. I tried six wines in all and here were some of the highlights:

2012 Eisbach Riesling Trocken (dry) from Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier, Rheinhessen (available to take away from the shop at €12/bottle). This wine was slightly off-dry and had an aroma that reminded me Apferschorle (a German soft drink with sparkling water and apple juice). There was some acidity to this wine, but not as pronounced as one would usually expect.

2010 Abtsberg Riesling Superior from Weingut Maxim Gruenhaus, Ruwer (available to take away from the shop at €22/bottle). This was a relatively subtle wine, with a nice structure and brightness to it. Classical and elegant.

2011 300m nn Riesling Trocken from Weingut Peter-Jakob Kuehn, Rheingau (we tried it from the magnum, which is available to take away from the shop at €83/bottle). The bouquet on this was phenomenal; exotic, powerful, complex and slightly perfumed. It had an interesting and intriguing taste, which did not quite live up to the nose (but only because the aroma was so distinct). The waiter suggested that this wine would have been an excellent food match for strongly flavoured ham/cold cuts or for some local blood sausage. 

This was an excellent tasting, with lots of useful information provided by the waiter - who clearly knew his stuff. We were given the tasting in German, but they have staff who can work in English too.

I also visited Ottorink, which is in Kreuzberg (not too far away from Checkpoint Charlie). This was less about doing a wine tasting and more about meeting friends and sipping some very tasty wines. The think I liked about this place was its continually changing wine list, which they write in chalk on their blackboard walls.

Once the wines are gone they are crossed off and replaced with other wines. The whole focus, it seems, is making sure that their regular customers can keep trying out new things. They have an unashamed passion for the Mosel, as well as having excellent selections from Nahe, Baden, Pfalz and Rheinhessen.

For those who don't like German wine (I'd be amazed if you got this far through the article, to be honest!) they do have some wines from France, Spain and South America, amongst others.    

What strikes me when you talk to Germans about their food and their wine is that they are incredibly knowledgeable and well informed about their food and drink. There is clearly a lot of pride in the quality of their cuisine and their produce; Germany may not be recognised as an international centre of gastronomic excellence, but I think it should be.

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