Germans are sticklers for detail. But you knew that, of course, and possibly did that cute little nose-scrunch thing of yours when looking over the formalities of a German wine label. If you are more familiar with the French AOC system of certification or those randomly placed front label/back label bits of enlightenment that U.S. law requires, a German wine label may seem a little daunting.
Like the Maginot Line, it shouldn’t: Germans love information, lots of information, sometimes too much information for us ‘let’s just pour it and get on with stuff’ Americans, but if you want to know how ripe the grapes were when picked, whether sugar has been added to boost alcohol or the sequential order in which the wine was submitted for testing, it’s all right there in front of you. Germans like this kind of trivia.
(Other things Germans like: Punctuality, pickled cabbage, Quark cheese upon waking up for work at 4:00 AM, opening every window upon arriving at work at 5:00 AM, socks with sandals, potato noodles big as throw-rugs and dressing like Saturday Night Fever extras without realizing how ridiculous they look.
Things Germans don’t like: Humor and English people.)
In 2007, the traditional German classification system Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) was renamed Prädikatswein—God knows why—and represents the perceived ‘highest quality’ of German wine. Designations indicate increasing natural sugar levels in the must, and in ascending order go: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese. The wine authorities would have kept going, no doubt, but they finally ran out of letters—even ones with dots over them.
Below this hallowed Hunnish hierarchy are QbA wines, which can be chapatalized (artificially sweetened) in lean years, and a notch further down the totem pole are Landweins, or country wines; the German equivalent of the French vin de pays. Tafelweins, or table wines, usually pick up last place.
For a traditional and well-respected Mosel producer, Wine Cellar Rudolf Müller has little to say about itself online: Evidently, the ‘more is more’ labeling philosophy doesn’t carry through to the producer.
Mostly what I want to know why there is an Albrecht Dürer-style bunny hippity-hopping across the logo. Okay, so both Albrecht and Rudolf share an umlaut (and by the way, why doesn’t umlaut have an umlaut?), but otherwise, I see no association between edgy rieslings and etchy rabbits. It’s a minor thing, granted, but damn it, those Teutons put everything on the label, and now that I searched for a little cottontail clarification and came up empty, it’s really started to bug me. (Maybe that’s it: Bugs).
In any case, the latest release of Müller Bunny Wine arrived courtesy Octavin Home Wine Bar in the form of a three liter self-collapsing bag-in-the-box which allows the wine to remain fresh for up to three weeks—something that an uncorked wine can’t do and something that makes zero difference to me since open wine in my house barely lasts three hours let alone three weeks. Still, as Octavin points out, their patented premium wine cask reduces packaging waste by 92% and carbon emissions by 55%, which is very environmentally friendly of them, except that when they sent the sample, they swathed it in styrofoam, and we all know that the first thing Jesus is going to say at the Second Coming is, “Where the hell did all this styrofoam come from?”
On To The Rodent Riesling
So, within the Octavin bugs-in-the-box, Rudolf’s riesling is a succulent version of an entry-level Landwein, which means that the grapes were harvested from one of the specific Landwein regions, in this case, Rhein, and must contain a higher percentage of alcohol than German table wine. One reason that most Americans are not familiar with the term Landwein is that it was only classified in 1982, and also—unlike virtually all other countries, the Germans produce very little Landwein or Tafelwein—less that 5% of their total wine output—and hardly any gets exported.
Müller’s did, and it proves to be clean and melony, suggesting honeysuckle on the nose and peaches, green apples and apricots on the palate. It’s classified as halbtrocken, or half-dry, which pessimists might call ‘half-sweet’, except that by law, Landwein is not allowed to be semi-sweet. Trying to fathom the difference between half-sweet and semi-sweet is probably made them cynics in the first place… especially since R. Müller’s bunny label lists the wine as ‘medium sweet’. Anyway, the wine finishes dry with a nice mineral bite.
I actually kept a bottle’s worth around for three weeks to see how well the hot-shot package worked, and indeed, it was perfectly drinkable after that time.
The rest of you might not have so much patience and may drink it all (it’s 9.5% alcohol) in a couple sittings. If you wind up with the morning-after blues from too much bunny wine, I have the perfect cure:
Hare of the dog (preferably, a German Shepherd.)