The Germans and their compound words. Even people who haven't heard more than three words of German (presumably those will include "Achtung", "nein" and "Fuehrer", although amongst the more sophisticated "Kindergarten", "Zeitgeist" "Schadenfreude" und "Weltschmerz" are also candidates) know that the Germans like to build long words into even longer ones by attaching them to each other. Worry not though, I shall not be troubling you with yet another very complex word the length of the journey from Land's End to John O'Groats. Instead I will use a review of a Rheingau Riesling to introduce you to a short compound word every wine drinker should know.
The word is Zechwein.
So what's a Zechwein, you may ask. First of all let me tell you that the "Z" is pronounced more like the hiss of a movie snake, just shorter. Phonetics aside, Zechwein is a compound of "zechen" and "Wein", the latter obviously being wine and the first a verb that can be translated to "quaff", "tipple" or "wassail". The last of the three has the best sound and is appropriately archaic. So a Zechwein is a wine for wassailing, a wine that may not be brilliant but that excels at being a joy to drink, a wine that is more than just solid yet also not so complex that it would interrupt your drinking fun. Ideally, this wine is also priced at a level that allows you to open yet another bottle without you having to consider your bank balance.
Now enters the Ankermühle Classic Riesling, a wine I have recently received a bottle of from an importer. "Classic", btw, is a relatively recent German wine classification indicating that your are looking at a wine that while technically probably off-dry will have relatively high acidity so that it feels actually dry in the mouth. The maximum level of residual sugar can be 15 g/l and the acidity has to be at least half as much (this one comes in at 13.9 g/l RS and 7.1g acidity). Also, the wine is supposed to be true in character to the region it comes from, so only certain grape varieties are allowed. Seeing as I need a paragraph to explain just the basics of this classification I somehow don't think this label will be a success for the export market.
Now, without even further ado, here is the Ankermühle Classic Riesling. The bouquet is fresh, fruit acidity fresh in fact, with a mix of grapefruit and mostly citrus, but also tobacco, herbs, a touch of vegetable and juicy stone fruit. It tastes as good as it smells, a fresh wine with lively acidity and cool herbal, nice vegetable and good fruit flavours. Starting with a good presence it feels a little weaker mid-palate and then catches up in the decent finish again. Not a miracle of complexity, perhaps, but a wine that disappeared faster from my glass than I could say Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän.
Maybe the German wine industry should forget the new categories like "Classic" and instead try to win the world over by Zechwein. This is one.