This week we talk about sekt in the city. Sekt is a German term to describe quality sparkling wine, and I am writing this from Berlin, the German capital.
The word sekt was initially coined in Berlin in 1825. German sekt is mostly made from riesling, pinot gris or pinot noir grapes, and most of the grapes are imported from neighbouring nations. Ironically, most of the wine is consumed locally and it might be difficult finding sekt in China. But the effort will be rewarded.
All of the sekt tasted for this column was made from Riesling grapes. The best sekt has a vintage year plus the name of the village where it was made. The premium version is called Winzersekt, which means winegrower’s sekt. This means it was probably made in small batches rather than mass-produced by large companies.
These big companies are called Sektkellereien and often they buy huge volumes of grapes for large scale production. It is best to look for the word Winzersekt on the label if you seek the best quality. Prices in Berlin range from a few euros for mass-produced wines to up to 120 euro ($167) for the best.
Sekt is a sexy drink that can be consumed any time of the day. It is light and has flavours at the citrus end of the spectrum – tastes of lemon and lime – with lots of sherbert acidity. The alcohol tends to be low compared with red wines – about 10 to 11 per cent – meaning you will not feel sleepy after drinking.
Good sekt has wonderful mouth-feel. The bubbles from even a small sip will fill your mouth and you will get the sensation of small explosions of citrus filling your mouth. Sekt is generally dry so it would go well with dumplings or stir fried food, or Peking duck for a special occasion. The dryness and low alcohol comes from the fact the grapes do not ripen fully, because of the low levels of sunshine in northern Europe.
Be careful when opening sekt because the wine has the same closure as champagne. The cork will have a wire safety cage to hold back the considerable pressure from the gas in the bottle.
In 1902 the German emperor Willhelm II imposed a safety tax to ensure the wine did not harm people, but he was mostly looking for a way to fund expansion of his navy, which led indirectly to World War I. Currently that tax adds about one euro per bottle to the cost.
One reliable brand of sekt that is generally available is named after the German statesman Prince Metternich. Look for his face on the bottle. It costs about 8 to 9 euros in Berlin and is delicious and widely available. I am enjoying sekt in the city.
* “Sexy bubbly from Germany” in China Daily, 30 October 2010, page 12.