By Michelle Trauring
Oktoberfest and white wine — particularly Riesling — may seem like a non-sequitur and, to beer enthusiasts, blasphemy.
But in practice, German white wines and the month-long folk festival can go hand in hand, as much as the barley literati may try to deny it.
“Riesling, along with champagne, is the most versatile food wine that there is,” according to author Jay McInerney, who moonlights as a wine consultant for Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor. “But a lot of Americans don’t really know that or understand it. They get scared because they think it’s going to be sweet, and all three of these Rieslings we have are quite dry. There’s a little hint of sweetness, but not much.”
For those who are impartial to beer, McInerney urges them to join in on the Oktoberfest festivities with one of two Joh. Jos. Prüm Rieslings — the 2010 Spatlese or 2012 Kabinett, made from “Graacher Himmelreich” grapes, the largest single vineyard in the small village of Graach.
“Joh. Jos. Prüm is the one of the greatest German winemakers,” McInerney said. “I really love his Riesling. The Spatlese is a richer, heavier wine than the average bottle, and it’s a real steal at $75. If that were a French Burgundy of that quality, it would be $150, $200.”
The restaurant’s third offering, a 2011 Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett, hails from Mosel, which is the most famous German wine region, McInerney said. It is also on the heavier side, he noted, which makes it a perfect to accompany a festive fall meal.
“The sort of platonic, ideal pairing might be wienerschnitzel,” he said with a laugh, “but any kind of veal, chicken or white fish dishes are really great with these wines. Riesling has a very high level of acidity, which makes it a really good food wine. If you think about squeezing lemon onto a piece of fish to really heighten the flavor, that is exactly the role that a Riesling serves with a piece of fluke, say, or sea bass. It’s like a really crisp Riesling serves the role of that piece of lemon.”
As far as McInerney knows, Baron’s Cove has never carried German reds — and hardly anyone else does, either. The whites are far superior, and among them, the vast majority are Rieslings.
“Riesling is just an incredibly versatile grape,” he said. “It can be a very, very dry wine, a sweet wine, and the amazing thing about it is, depending on where it’s grown, it has a special character in each different place. So it’s endlessly interesting. If you were to try the Selbach-Oster next to the Prüm, you’d find that they’re very distinct, even in the same category.”
Last weekend, Baron’s Cove threw an Oktoberfest of its own, complete with German-style pretzels, sauerkraut, bratwurst and Steckerlfisch, with beer on tap and wine by the glass and bottle.
At the time of the interview, McInerney was already looking ahead.
“Personally, I would be drinking Riesling myself at Oktoberfest. I don’t drink that much beer,” he said. “In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m gonna go in this weekend and have some. I’m going to order a bottle of the Prüm.”
For more information about Baron’s Cove, located at 31 West Water Street in Sag Harbor, call (631) 725-2101 or visit baronscove.com.