Lest you think Deutschland is all about white wine, here is a reminder that red grapes are on the rise, being used for both rotweins and rosé. Given the season, the latter seems like an appropriate topic — and one that could surprise you in a most pleasant way.
Dry German rosé might sound like an oxymoron, as both German wines and rosés are often associated with sweetness. However, some of the best and most well-priced pink wines you can find these days come from the land of riesling.
Like elsewhere, all you need to make rosé are some red-skinned grapes. Blauer Portugieser, a grape that despite its name is native to Central Europe, has been one of the preferred varietals due to its early ripening and light color. Maybe not the most complex grape, it is still capable of making lovely, fresh rosé.
Lemberger, aka Blaufrankisch, also is used to make a significant amount of rosé. Floral and spicy, it has a bit more kick than Portugieser.
Dornfelder is one of Germany's most popular red grapes. Fuller bodied with more tannin than both of the aforementioned grapes, it is often blended with other grapes, contributing weight, structure and color.
The rise of German rosé might be attributed to the increase of pinot noir plantings. Now the leading red wine varietal in nearly all regions, German spatburgunder has carved out a place for itself, producing wines with extraordinary minerality. As a rosé, this comes across in a more subtle fashion, but it is still apparent, offering the berry-fruit character of the grape with elegance.
Germany's entrance into the rosé big leagues has a lot to do with the overall popularity of rosé. With so many different countries getting into the act, the diversity is immense. While most rosé available in the Bay Area is from California or the south of France, the selection is widening and German rosés are among the best you can find.
Dr. Heyden Rosé Trocken, 2012 (Rheinhessen, Germany): If you think you are experiencing deja vu, that is because I wrote about the 2011 version of this wine last year. This year's blend is 60 percent pinot noir, 30 percent Portugieser and 10 percent Dornfelder. If anything, the quality has improved, as the addition of Dornfelder provides more texture. Floral with understated peach and berry fruit, it may be the best rosé value on the shelves. Suggested retail: $12
Fritz's Rosé, 2012 (Rheinhessen, Germany): Fritz Hasselbach, the current patriarch of Gunderloch, makes this wine from Portugieser and pinot meunier, which is known in Germany as schwarzriesling. Fermented in stainless steel, it has a vibrant, racy character with an abundance of grapefruit, tangerine, kumquat, Meyer lemon and tart peach fruit that will appeal to California palates. Suggested retail: $15
Reichsrat Von Buhl Pinot Noir Rosé, 2012 (Pfalz, Germany): Von Buhl's rosé started out as a byproduct of its pinot noir sparkling wine. What a fine leftover it has become. Crisp with faint cherry, raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb flavors and a tangy finish, it is a treat to drink. Elegant and impeccably balanced. Suggested retail: $17
Some of these wines can be found through Beltramo's, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, Harvest Hills Market, K&L Wine Merchants, Vintage Berkeley Elmwood, Vintage Berkeley, Solano Cellars, Wine Club SF and William Cross.
Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.