China Daily wine column #14
Friday October 29th 2010, 3:45 am
Filed under: wine
This week we talk about sekt in the city. Sekt is a German term to describe quality sparkling wine, and I am writing this from Berlin, the German capital.
The word sekt was initially coined in Berlin in 1825. German sekt is mostly made from riesling, pinot gris or pinot noir grapes, and most of the grapes are imported from neighbouring nations. Ironically, most of the wine is consumed locally and it might be difficult finding sekt in China. But the effort will be rewarded.
All of the sekt tasted for this column was made from Riesling grapes. The best sekt has a vintage year plus the name of the village where it was made. The premium version is called Winzersekt, which means winegrower’s sekt. This means it was probably made in small batches rather than mass-produced by large companies.
These big companies are called Sektkellereien and often they buy huge volumes of grapes for large scale production. It is best to look for the word Winzersekt on the label if you seek the best quality. Prices in Berlin range from a few euros for mass-produced wines to up to 120 euro ($167) for the best.
Sekt is a sexy drink that can be consumed any time of the day. It is light and has flavours at the citrus end of the spectrum – tastes of lemon and lime – with lots of sherbert acidity. The alcohol tends to be low compared with red wines – about 10 to 11 per cent – meaning you will not feel sleepy after drinking.
Good sekt has wonderful mouth-feel. The bubbles from even a small sip will fill your mouth and you will get the sensation of small explosions of citrus filling your mouth. Sekt is generally dry so it would go well with dumplings or stir fried food, or Peking duck for a special occasion. The dryness and low alcohol comes from the fact the grapes do not ripen fully, because of the low levels of sunshine in northern Europe.
Be careful when opening sekt because the wine has the same closure as champagne. The cork will have a wire safety cage to hold back the considerable pressure from the gas in the bottle.
In 1902 the German emperor Willhelm II imposed a safety tax to ensure the wine did not harm people, but he was mostly looking for a way to fund expansion of his navy, which led indirectly to World War I. Currently that tax adds about one euro per bottle to the cost.
One reliable brand of sekt that is generally available is named after the German statesman Prince Metternich. Look for his face on the bottle. It costs about 8 to 9 euros in Berlin and is delicious and widely available. I am enjoying sekt in the city.
* “Sexy bubbly from Germany” in China Daily, 30 October 2010, page 12.
China Daily wine column #13
Around the world, great vineyards tend to cluster in specific locations for a range of reasons connected with climate and soil. Yet Mount Langi Ghiran, one of Australia’s great vineyards, sits in one of the most isolated parts of the Grampians region.
Europeans who originally arrived to look for gold planted the first vineyard in the Grampians region in the 1870s. Sheep farms replaced vines from the early 1900s until the Fratin brothers, Italian migrants, re-established the site in 1963. They planted shiraz from the Great Western region at the base of Mount Langi Ghiran, which sits above the vineyard. These vines were from 140-year-old stock.
The unique Mount Langi Ghiran terroir produces spicy and complex wine. General manager and viticulturist Damien Sheehan said his brief was “to grow excellent shiraz”. The highly influential Robert Parker has featured what he considered the three best Australian shiraz on the front cover of his magazine, Wine Spectator, and Mount Langi was one of them.
I tasted a range of estate-grown wines from the high-end Cliff Edge and ultra-premium ranges. The 2008 Cliff Edge pinot gris smells gently of ripe pears. Its acidity and length would make it ideal with steamed dumplings. The 2008 riesling is equally high class, with aromas of lemon peel and lime, and a steely mineral taste.
The 2006 Nut Tree Hill sangiovese comes from a separate vineyard near a grove of chestnut trees. It has aromas of wild thyme and tastes of sour cherries. The 2008 Cliff Edge shiraz had flavours of sweet plums and spice. Its soft tannins mean it is drinking well now, but the wine would keep for at least five more years. I currently am drinking the excellent 2004 vintage.
The flagship reds, the 2005 Blue Label cabernet sauvignon and the 2007 Mount Langi Ghiran shiraz, are beautifully made wines that need to be cellared before they can be fully appreciated. The cabernet sauvignon has aromas of blackcurrants and dark plum. Soft and silky tannins suggest a structure that will last for at least a decade. The wine tastes of cassis and peppery plums and exhibits a pleasantly earthy fruitiness.
The 2007 shiraz smelled of violets, sweet plums and mixed spice. It spent 14 months in French oak and the resulting wine is restrained at first. Winemaker Dan Buckle said a small percentage of whole bunch fermentation added perfume to the nose, and helped build the tannic structure. This wine costs $70 from the cellar door and is a bargain when compared with wines of similar quality from France or the United States.
Mount Langi Ghiran wines are available from the Wine Republic
39 East Third Ring Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing.
* “There’s liquid gold in the Grampians”, in China Daily, 23 October 2010, page 12.