Friday, October 21, 2011

Franconian Wine

I don't know a lot about wine, but I'd like to learn.

When I was teaching English in Munich, one of my private students, a woman in her early 40s, was a wine hobby-ist. Since she loved to talk about wine, I often used wine as our topic to generate grammar lessons. I'm not sure I can say I learned a lot about wine. But I did start to think about wine in new ways.  Integral to her hobby of wine collection was travel.  Every wine she bought was handpicked at a vineyard over a weekend of travel.

Fritz comes from Franconia (Franken), an area of Germany close to Frankfurt, but still in the German state of Bavaria (Bayern). They grow grapes on the south facing slopes of the Main River. The wine produced is so dry (with such a low sugar content) that it has it's own scale of dryness. To me, it tastes so complex and refined. After a few years of drinking it, I lost the ability to drink most American white wines which are now almost uncomfortably sweet. Franconian wine is produced in small batches and mostly consumed in Franconia. Although, der Spiegel once claimed the Queen of England drinks it regularly. It has its own special bottle design, called the Bocksbeutel.

When we lived in Munich, we drove up to Franconia (about 4 hours away) once a month to visit family. We often stopped at the local wine dealer, Weingut Wengerter to pick up a case of wine. At 5 euros (about $8) a bottle, it was affordable and significantly better than the 2 euro wine at our corner grocer.
At some point, Franconian wine became quite boring, and we began to get wine from Spain and Italy through mail order programs that send 12 different bottles to sample. These programs are omni-present and quite affordable in Germany. Occasionally, I see similar programs advertised here in the states, and I've always wondered how they navigate the complicated interstate alcohol laws. Some day, we might try these programs stateside, I think.

The Spanish and Italian wine samples were sometimes good and sometimes bad. But after about a year of experimentation, we returned to Wengerter.

In Denver, we decided to make a concerted effort to try American wines. Although we haven't been to any vineyards here in Colorado, we're really disappointed in our 'finds' at the local wine stores.

We gave up; we looked for imported Franconian wine. Nothing. At least nothing here, in the state of Colorado.

I wonder if it is a mistake to buy wines from a store anyway. Commercially available wines are, after all, mass produced.

Maybe good wine can simply NOT be mass produced. And the idea of a whole store that sells vast quantities of the same wine? Detrimental to quality. Maybe we need to buy wine at the vineyard on our Weekend Travels, like my student.  Because we do SOOOO many Weekend Travels with the boys.

We bought a case of wine from Wengerter last Spring while in Germany. We had no idea how we would get that much wine back to Denver. We thought only 2 bottles would make it back due to customs regulations: one for me, one for Fritz. But the more I looked into the regulations, the more excited I became. It's confusing - but basically, you can bring as much wine (for personal consumption) as you want into Colorado from abroad. You will simply be responsible for paying customs and tax on the value of the wine. And here, I should tell you the customs and tax are quite low: fear not. So there you have it, go abroad and collect lots and lots of wine.

We hauled back 14 bottles of wine in cardboard wine boxes in the luggage compartment of the airline. We paid a little extra for an additional piece of luggage. I hope the wine lasts until we can start Weekend Wine Collecting Expeditions. I'm sure there's good (affordable) wine out there; I'm just pretty convinced it's not available at the 'local' wine store.

I wrote this post a long, long time ago. And accidentally hit publish last week (or so). Now, I'll publish it for real, while I struggle through completing a couple posts that are... challenging me.

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