Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! The German aisle of the wine section has been oddly neglected for a long time in Prince Albert liquor stores but I’m excited to see so many new options appearing with grape names like Dornfelder, Kerner, Pinot Blanc, Trollinger, Sylvaner and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris). It’s difficult to know where to begin but one brand caught my attention with its flashy decorated border and shiny depiction of a woodland owl staring from the shelf. This week, we’re taking a look at a blended German white wine called Lingenfelder Owl and a Sangiovese from Puglia, Italy. 

One of the best ways to learn about wine labels is to browse through the European wines and pick up a few bottles, checking out the front and back of the label for as much information as possible. The label on the Lingenfelder is the perfect example of a wine label which provides a lot of useful data without dumbing it down or treating the consumer like they need their hands held. Clearly stated on this label are the words “Kabinett” which means the grapes used in the wine are from the 1st picking season of the region. This knowledge reveals that the grapes will be less ripe and less concentrated and also that the wine will probably be lighter due to less sugar (thus less alcohol) and less body in the wine.

Another noticeable term on the Owl wine is the word “trocken”. This term indicates the sweetness level of the wine; in this case the wine is dry which makes sense since the wine is from an earlier picking. Besides the noticeably eye-catching front label, other info to discover on this label is the region (Pfalz) which is a major wine producing area in Western Germany. Among some fantastic Pinot Noir and Riesling from the Pfalz region, you’ll also find wines made from Germany’s and Austria’s noble grape varieties like Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and the grapes found in the Owl blend, Sylvaner and Pinot Gris.

The alcohol level itself can often be a good clue as to what we will taste when we pour a glass of wine. Usually, the lower the alcohol level stated on the bottle, the higher the sugar content of the wine; this usually occurs because the winemaker decides to stop fermentation early, leaving excess sugars in the wine. In the case of the Lingenfelder wine, grapes had just enough sugar in them to reach 12% ABV after being picked during the “trocken” season. The addition of a word like “trocken” on the label is very useful to the customer since it specifically defines the flavor profile and the tasting experience we will get when we trust a brand and purchase their product.

Taking a look at our Italian wine this week, the product is simply packaged and marketed, and this is reflected in the final style and flavor of the wine as well. The Ama Bene is a slightly rustic Sangiovese from Puglia which is designated as an IGT (ranking it above a basic table wine but below DOC or DOCG). The label is a depiction of farmland and sun setting over a vineyard all done in a simplistic water painting art style. The label hints at the type of wine we will taste, and it isn’t wrong. This isn’t a bad thing as I like a straightforward and down to earth Sangiovese wine now and then, but the label has more to tell us or not tell us in this case. There is no statement of vintage (no stated year of production) and no other geographical data except for it coming from Puglia, Italy (you can’t expect much more from an IGT wine).

I really enjoyed both wines this week from the simplicity of the Sangiovese (which actually tasted better the next day like a good leftover lasagna), to the austerity and nobility of the German white. The red I would serve on pasta night and the white I would take out on a nice day on the deck or with fine appetizers. The Lingenfelder Owl wine sure does look great on a table and will grab the attention of guests on a candlelit table. Here are my wine picks of the week!     

Ama Bene Sangiovese: (IGT Puglia, Italy). Dry red, medium ruby color. The scents rising from the glass are classic Sangiovese: bright red cherries, tomato vine/plant and earth. It takes a sip or two to adjust to this high-acid, medium-minus bodied red, but once the initial buzz of acidity subsides, sour cherries and tomato vine stand out with pepper and bitter notes. The bitterness continues into a medium-length finish of cocoa and licorice (earth) leaving a slight gripping sensation on the cheeks and tongue from medium tannins. Overall, the cherry-forward style is simple, and the tangy/acidic sensation can shock at first, but this makes a good choice for food pairings like herbed pan bread with balsamic vinegar and oil, pasta Bolognese or antipasto. Good! $19, 13% ABV 

Lingenfelder Vineyard Creatures Owl 2020: (Pfalz, Germany).Dry to off-dry white, pale lemon color. The nose is fruity and delicate with freshly sliced green apples, green grapes, floral notes and Anjou pears. The first upfront flavors are green apples and grapes with a light undertone of elderflower providing a touch of bitterness. Medium-plus acidity cuts through the mid-palate perfectly which elevates the light, honeyed fruit and reveals more floral characteristics. The craftmanship of the wine shows with the beautiful finish as the acidity seems to ring and carry on for minutes at a time. Fruity apple and tingling spice linger until the next sip and while the flavor may seem simple at first, the balance of the wine is impeccable. A beautiful wine to pair with light foods such as Emmental or Swiss cheese, rosemary ham, tempura shrimp or sushi. Very good! $32, 12% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!