Great beer, brilliant cars, a frustratingly good international football team, lots of pork, even more sauerkraut and the somewhat unfortunate reputation for cheap sweet white wine... Some would say that’s Germany in a nutshell but as is often the case, there is much, much more to discover, and where better to look than two of my favourite things – food & wine.
The country’s restaurant scene is thriving, with talented and creative chefs showcasing the best in modern European cuisine. In fact, the country is ranked 4th in the world for number of Michelin starred restaurants. Clearly more than just Currywurst and Pretzels.
Where good food goes, great wine follows, or vice versa. Germany is no exception. The wine industry has changed considerably from the days of Blue Nun. The country’s winemaking trendsetters have chartered a course that’s firmly in the here and now. The sweet wines that sit at the top of the Pradikatswein tree are still revered among aficionados and collectors alike, commanding hefty price tags at auction, but there is a considerable move towards affordable yet gastronomic dry wines with lower alcohol, fresh acidity and, importantly, drinkability.
Riesling has always been a popular choice for food pairings and especially with Asian cuisine. The mix of umami, spice, sweetness & acidity in the dishes requires wines with low to moderate alcohol levels, crisp acidity, sweetness of fruit or some residual sugar. And tick, tick, tick; German Riesling fits the bill.
But its not just Riesling. The food-friendly ‘Burgunder’ (Pinot) family of grapes are widely grown and making a name for themselves. With terroirs like those found in Alsace and Northern Burgundy, Germany’s Burgunders offer great value for money compared to many of their premium French cousins and pair nicely with a wide range of cuisines.
Whenever I’m tasting wine, I immediately begin to consider the meals and recipes which would best suit. With Germany producing so much variety in their wines, the region has become fantastic inspiration and a route to trying new things in the kitchen, while also returning to old favourites that have proven the perfect match to a newly discovered German wine. Here’s some recipes and suggested pairings that go far beyond the Bratwurst and Gluhwein of Christmas market fame!
Whole Steamed Seabass with Soy, Spring Onion Dressing with Coriander and Crispy Chilli Oil
- Simple to prepare but don’t tell your dinner guests that! This is a real showstopper.
- The fresher the fish, the better the results!
- Steam for around 9-10 mins and the flesh should fall right off the bone
- Pair with Weingut Wechsler’s lively Silvaner Trocken packed with herbal and floral notes plus a persistent minerality coming from the limestone soils its grown on.
Crispy Teriyaki Chicken with steamed Rice & Broccoli
- Making your own Teriyaki sauce is easy and stores in the fridge for weeks – no need for shop bought again. My go to is equal parts of sake, mirin & light soy sauce with a squeeze of honey, minced ginger and a handful of sesame seeds.
- Skin on Chicken thighs with a coating of seasoned cornflour are best for a crispy coating.
- The sweet stickiness of Teriyaki can make many dry wines taste overly acidic or tart. Try something with residual sugar or sweetness of fruit with good intensity. An off-dry Riesling like the Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett or a Roberson favourite, Weingut Carl Koch’s Gewurtztraminer Trocken make great partners.
Ox Cheek Bourguignon with buttery mash and roasted carrots
- This is one of my favourites for wintry nights. Deep, rich and flavourful sauce with tender almost melty beef. You can just eat this with a spoon.
- If you cannot get Ox Cheek, try with any cut of beef that is good for a low and slow cook. Short ribs or beef shin are great alternatives.
- Slow-cooked dishes are always kind to wine pairings, you can match them with fresher lighter bodied styles as well as more powerful expressions. The Baden Pinot Noir from Weingut Claus Schneider is on the more concentrated side of the Pinot Noir scale. Think Pommard & Gevrey if you know your Burgundy styles. Something a little bolder would be the Ziereisen Gestad Syrah – similar to those of the Northern Rhône – deep in colour, aromatic and peppery with a smooth finish.
Lemon & herb Schnitzel with Celeriac remoulade
- Pork, veal, turkey or chicken are all great options.
- Add lemon zest and chopped herbs to your breadcrumbs to give the coating extra flavour.
Creamy, tangy & mustardy remoulade is such a easy but impressive side dish.
- Go for dry and fresh white wines with a bit of character like the lively Weingut Schnaitmann Steinwiege Grauburgunder or the nutty Weissburgunder Scheibenhardt from Holger Koch.
Asparagus & Peashoot Salad with Barbecued Langoustines
- This is great for an alfresco late lunch in the back garden.
- Try roasting the asparagus with some flaky sea salt, olive oil and lemon zest – the tips go all crispy and savoury
- Langoustines or tiger prawns provide a sweetness against the earthy flavours of asparagus and peashoots
- Serve with a simple lemon and garlic vinaigrette.
- A Riesling would work great with this but try Weingut Wittmann’s Weisser Burgunder. Light, crisp and easy drinking with good fruit intensity, creamy depth and a saline minerality to finish.