Monday, March 12, 2007


I've left German wines for last in my lexicon on wine pronunciations for a couple of reasons, but mostly because German wine terms include some of the biggest, longest, most tongue-twistingess words out there. I’m not sure what it is with the Germans; maybe spaces are rare and expensive, but whatever the case, they sure seem to like to string words together. Where the Italians will come up with a long name of three or four words (like “Vernaccia di Serrapetrona”), the Germans like to jam them all together in one really, really long word.

There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re a native German speaker, but the uninitiated tend to blanch when they encounter a word like “trockenbeerenauslese”, which simply means “selected dry berries” – or more literally, “selecteddryberries”. German is full of words like that. How about “weingärtnergenossenschaft”?

No wonder they started a couple of World Wars – they were probably pissed that no one could pronounce their language (or pissed that they had to).

As far as pronunciation goes, I always had trouble with German (no duh). It seems like it should be like English – much of the English language comes from German – but they have some tongue-twisting ways of putting letters together and then saying them. The best thing you can do to improve your German pronunciation is hawk up a big load of phlegm, but don’t spit it out. Just keep it in your mouth and try to talk around it. Crude, I know, but it does wonders every time.

The most obvious difference in German is how “w” is pronounced. Ve all know this one, don’t’ ve? In German “w” is pronounced like “v”.
Gewürztraminer = guh-VURTS-trah-mee-ner
Weingärtnergenossenschaft = VINE-gart-nur-geh-NAW-sehn-shaft
“Th is pronounced as “t”. Yes, you’ve been saying “Neanderthal” wrong all this time, you knuckle-dragging Neanderthal.
Müller-Thurgau = MEW-lerr TOUR-gow
Thanisch = TAH-nihsh
Vowels are tricky in German, particularly “ie” and “ei”. I was always saying them wrong. But I finally realized that you pronounce the second vowel and ignore the first. So “ie” is pronounced as “e” and “ei” is pronounced as “i”. Cool.
Riesling = REEZ-ling
Mittelrhein = MIHT-uhl-rine
The letters “Ch” are pronounced as “k” (with a bit of spit thrown in at the end), but not if part of “sch”.
Bereich = beh-RICK
Sachsen = ZAHKH-zuhn
An “e” at the end of a word is often pronounced as “uh”.
Trockenbeerenauslese = TRAWK-uhn-bay-ruhn-OWS-lay-zuh
Grosslage = GROSS-lah-guh
“Pf” is pronounced as “f”.
Rheinpfalz = RINE-faults
In fact there are so many weird pronunciations in German that there’s no way I could cover them all. It’s just too flurbereinigung.


Your homework this week is supposed to be tasting German wines. Well, good luck finding a real German wine in Chico. CostPlus has a couple of bottles and Creekside Cellars has - count 'em - one. You may have to settle for a California- or Washington-grown version of German Riesling or Gewurztraminer. Both are light, often sweet white wines.

Wines of the Week

Dr. H Thanisch 2005 Riesling
Very tart, green apple aroma. Very nice. Just a touch of nectarine and muskmelon on the nose. This wine has the slightest touch of frizzante (a fancy word for fizz), which is nice. It's sweet, almost a bit cloying, so if you like only truly dry wines, this might not appeal to you. The acidity is a bit weak on this wine, so it's not as crisp and refreshing as it might be. Available at CostPlus for $15.99. 3 stars.

Sander Halbtrocken Riesling
Halbtrocken means "half dry", and this is a lightly sweet wine. Muskier and less aromatic than the Thanisch, it has more nectarine and apricot on the nose. On the palate there is no frizzante, but that is more than made up for by a really refreshing crispness. Very nice and enjoyable. This wine goes great with Indian food. I'm not kidding - Rieslings generally pair well with curries and other spicy Asian foods. Available at Creekside Cellars for $12.99. 3.5 stars.

No comments: