VDP.INTERVIEW | "German Riesling tends to show a lot of terroir for its value"

Copenhagen based sommelier Christian Jacobsen on German wine in Denmark. On 25 February the VDP will hold a tasting of its top crus from VDP.GROSSE LAGE® in the Danish capital.

What was your first experience with German wine? How did you catch the bug?

It’s hard to recall as I had so many great experiences with German wines early on, but the first time I really understood the exceptional quality was probably when I tasted a 1990 Fritz Haag Kabinett. It showed me how well Riesling with a bit of residual sweetness can age, how versatile wine really is and what its potential can be.


Which German winemaker impressed you the most and why?

Weingut Dönnhoff from the Nahe. Perhaps an easy choice, but considering how the wines are on point year after year, dry styles as well as sweeter examples, the wines are consistently world class!


Why do you think people in Denmark should try German wines?

There is really high quality for a good price, particularly with dry Rieslings. Terroir – the expression of soil, location and climate – are decisive factors for wine quality. And German Riesling tends to show a lot of these factors – quite like Burgundy, Piedmont or the Loire. Wine geeks also appreciate the complexity, which you already find in the entry level and mid-segment wines, such as VDP.GUTSWEIN and VDP.ORTSWEIN. German Rieslings play on the world stage, but they are not yet that expensive. 


Do German wines go well with Danish cuisine?

Yes, I really think so – especially with our typical springtime dishes: raw seafood such as oysters, clams, fish roe or prawns long for dry German Riesling or Silvaner. The wines are also wonderful companions for local products like white and green asparagus or green peas. We have plenty of fresh produce in the springtime and the German whites are a beautiful match with these fresh, young flavours.

Riesling also ages well and not just the sweet styles like Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese or Eiswein. The latter are a pleasure with desserts and also combine perfectly with various Danish cheeses.  


What would you suggest tasting from Germany? Do you have favourite origins?

For the off-dry and sweet styles, the Mosel is the region you need in your glass. This cool-climate area has a very long tradition with this style of wine. The steep slopes and slate soils of the Mosel deliver a ridiculous amount of complexity to the wines of this origin. For dry whites, Rheinhessen is the place to be. The young generation there has pushed the quality of the wines from this region to quite a high standard. The Nahe region is also fascinating, but unfortunately quite small. If you are looking for a nice Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), go to Baden. The quality increase here during the last couple of years has been impressive. To summarize, I must say, things are moving up all over Germany.  


How many German wines do you have on your list?

At the moment, we have about 30 to 40 wines from Germany, mainly Riesling, but also a few Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) – the total number of German wines is 600. We are actually at a low right now. We plan to stock up in the springtime when we need German wines to pair with our spring and summer dishes. We will also add Spätburgunder and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) to our wine list and perhaps a few Silvaner from Franken.     


Is there a difference between young wine lovers and “older” wine enthusiasts in terms of their wine choice in Denmark?

Yes, there definitely is. The younger crowd tends to be explorative and curious. Because they seldom have a long history of drinking wine, they are keen on learning and trying new stuff. They don’t have a preconceived opinion about German wines and are keen to try whatever we suggest, whether dry or sweet, Riesling or Silvaner, white or orange. There are no rights ore wrongs as long as the wine tastes good. More experienced wine enthusiasts tend to go for the famous established names in the specific regions. If they are into German wines, they tend to appreciate the off-dry styles, which is not necessarily the case with the “youngsters”, yet!


What is the perception of German wine in Denmark?

There is a good understanding of German wine on the Danish market. German wines currently have a market share of 7 to 8 percent. And I don’t think this is its peak potential. The global trend is currently shifting away from high-alcohol wines. German wines suit this development perfectly, especially for the Danish people. Danes used to prefer full-bodied reds from Chile or South Africa, but they are now discovering what Germany has to offer.


How would you describe Danish perception of food and wine?

Over the past 10 to 15 years, Danish people have become increasingly aware of what they eat and drink. With food, the focus has turned to organic local produce, which is generally a strong trend in Nordic cuisine. People are inquisitive, adventurous and enjoy developing their palates – and this has gone hand-in-hand with exploration of wine. There has also been a boom in wine education over the last seven years, not only for sommeliers, but wine enthusiasts as well. People are hungry for knowledge and quality. 


Are you interested in getting a taste of German wine? On 25 February the VDP.Prädikatsweingüter will present their top crus from VDP.GROSSE LAGE® as well as a selection of VDP.ORTSWEIN, which is a similar quality level as Cru Village in France, in Copenhagen. Here you find more info about the event.