Germany

Top 5 German Wines for Winter

Ahr Valley in the Winter

After working hard on our German Christmas Markets trip in November, I find myself with a serious craving an elegant Riesling or a hearty Pinot Noir. Picturing myself by the open fire of a snow covered inn straight out of a Brothers Grimm tale, these are my seasonal favourites I wish I were sipping…

  1. 1.       2011 Philipps-Eckstein Graacher Domprobst Riesling Sekt

In my perfect wintery setting, I would be starting with a glass of golden, sparling Sekt, Germnay’s sparkling wine. This one is made using the traditional, Champagne method, and stands out for its balanced toastiness and fruit, with just a hint of spice.

  1. 2.       2011 Saar Riesling Van Volxem

For me, no trip to Germany (even an imaginary one) should be without a glass of elegant, dry Riesling. I love this wine in particular for its mineral expression, lively acidity and delicious hints of ripe apples and pears.

  1. 3.       2011 Walporzheimer Kräuterberg, Ahr-Spätburgunder

Spätburgunder, (Pinot Noir) doesn’t get any better in Germany than those of the beautiful Ahr Valley. I’ve picked just one example from the many we will be trying on our German Christmas Markets trip: a delicious Pinot Noir with toasty aromas, a delicate hint of vanilla,and bursting with black cherry and ripe plums on the palate.

  1. 4.       2009 Kollmann-Lex Dornfelder

The Dornfelder grape variety was bred in 1956 and, though a relative newcomer to German viticulture, has already made a big impact with its signature deep colour, velvety texture and ability to benefit from barrique aging. This wine is earthy and almost herbal on the nose, with rich black fruit flavours and a hint of spice.

  1. 5.       2003 Dönnhoff Oberhauser Bruke Riesling Eiswein

I love the story behind this Eiswein, a German dessert wine produced from grapes frozen on the vine to concentrate the must. Apparently on this particular year the perfect time for grape picking coincided with Christmas day and resulted in the Dönnhoff family spending their Christmas plucking frozen grapes in sub-zero temperatures. But, though I feel for these dedicated producers out there in the snow, I wouldn’t be without a snifter of the stuff each winter! And thanks to this family’s efforts on Christmas 2003, we have a deep, jammy sweet wine packed with plum and vanilla aromas to see us through the cold.

Categories: Christmas, DDD, Food, Foodie, Germany, Spain, Wine

Top 5 German Christmas Markets

Christmas Market Gourmet Tour

It may only be September but I find myself already in hibernation mode, shying away from the cold, drizzly gloom outside. I am in serious need of some hearty, warming comfort food… and perhaps even a trip out of the country to search for it! After all, what could be more festive as we head into winter than a visit to the land of Christmas charm? I present to you, my favourite Yuletide spots in Germany:

1. Aachen

As the closest Christmas market to the UK, this ancient little spa town nestled on the Belgian border seems the logical place to start. Once the seat of Emporer Charlemagne, it still guards his treasures, from gold and jewels to the very buildings themselves – glorious examples of Medieval architecture, including the oldest cathedral in Northern Europe. With such a beautiful and historic setting, Aachen’s Christmas market couldn’t be better positioned, but it is its local delicacies that often steal the show. The speciality here is Aachen printen, a type of gingerbread exclusive to the town, which appears everywhere in an abundance of shapes and sizes.

Aachen Gingerbread (printen)2. Nuremburg

One of the most highly attended Christmas markets, Nuremburg’s pageantry and strict rules on authentic offerings gives the experience a very family-friendly feel. The main attraction is the Christkind, or Christmas Angel, a local girl chosen each year to open the market form the balcony of the Frauenkirche and to represent the spirit of Nuremburg’s Christmas celebrations.

3. Monshau

One of Germany’s best kept secrets, Monshau was awarded Most Beautiful Christmas Market in West Germany, and though small, this perfectly preserved little town certainly delivers as a truly quaint and festive market. I recommend checking out Monshau’s Christmas House; 3 stories filled entirely with decorations to admire and buy throughout the Christmas season.

Christmas Market in the Ahr Valley4. Dresden

Often cited as Germany’s oldest Christmas market with a history dating back to 1434, Dresden’s version even has its own name, Striezelmarkt. The name comes from the word Hefestriezel, a sweet delicacy which, centuries later, has become known as “Dresden Christstollen”. Today this local Christmas cake is the culinary focus of Dresden Christmas market, along with the world’s largest nutcracker and Christmas Pyramid!

5. Cologne

 

If you are still having trouble choosing just one Christmas market, then why not head for Cologne where an astounding 7 different markets are held each year! Whether you fancy the impressive backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral market, or the Cologne Harbour Christmas Market with it’s gourmet focus next to a chocolate factory, or even the cabaret and shows of Christmas Avenue, Cologne’s Gay and Lesbian Christmas Market, there’s something for everyone in Cologne!

 

Categories: Food, Foodie, Germany, Holidays, Wine

Germany: More than just Beer and Bratwurst?

Aachen Christmas Market

Over the last few months we have been busy researching and organizing our first wintery gourmet trip and as the seemingly inevitable washout August bank holiday arrived we were ready to launch Drink Dine Discover’s German Gourmet Christmas Markets. Germany may seem the obvious travel choice for a nation that inherited its love of Christmas from a German prince (thanks Albert!), but on closer inspection there are lots of surprises in store behind the wooden doors of those fairytale, snow-covered inns.

 

First up is our alternative to the usual Oktoberfest fare with our stay in the picturesque Aar Valley, not far from Cologne, where some of the country and indeed the world’s finest Pinot Noir is produced. Most people will not be too familiar with German wines, probably associating the country with aromatic whites such as Riesling or low-quality mass-produced semi-sweets the likes of Liebfraumilch. For the longest time, I quite agreed. I do like a nice dry Riesling, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the stuff to warm your cockles in the depths of winter. So when I first met Anne, now our resident German wine expert, her love and knowledge of her country’s diverse and ancient wine production changed my attitude entirely. Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder as it is known in Germany, is a real specialty of the Aar Valley, with its steep vineyards whose hilltops are crowned with castle ruins all along the river. Here the wines are red, rich and hearty and the perfect starting point for our tasting tour of seasonal game, family owned distilleries and freshly baked flammkuchen (a type of German tarte flambée).

Aachen Gingerbread (printen)As we move towards the Belgian border we will also travel through cosy villages that appear to be straight out of a Brothers Grimm tale, trying specially smoked fish by a wintery lake and learning about (and of course indulging in) scrumptious printen, a type of gingerbread only produced in Charlemagne’s favoured spa town, Aachen. Once the Coronation place of German Emperors, this picturesque little town still houses Charlemagne’s treasury, as well as one of the country’s best and most charming Christmas markets.

 

 

Ahr Valley in the WinterThough we are just scratching the surface of the wonderful richness of the German countryside, culture and cuisine, it has already become clear that images of frankfurters and flagons really are crude stereotypes. Though the beer is without question very good, and hearty plates of sausages and sauerkraut will no doubt make an appearance these are not the things that make Germany so rich and complex. I think perhaps Germany’s wealth lies in the surprising nuances and quirky traditions of its’ people, history and, of course, gastronomy, that only the inquisitive traveler experiences.

 

 

Categories: Christmas, Food, Foodie, Germany, Holidays, Wine

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