Sunday, August 16, 2009
Schillerwein---a German Speciality
Picture: Schillerwein, Dautel, Wuerttemberg
There are basically two ways of producing wine that is in-between red and white wine and often called rosé wine. First, using red grapes, but limiting the skin contact of the juice during fermentation so that only a small part of the red color is extracted from the skin and the wine thus has a rosé color. Or, second, blending white and red grapes before fermentation or red and white wines after fermentation.
Most of the rosés on the market these days are wines that are produced 100 percent out of red grapes. The wines do not become dark red because the fermentation procedure is such that only part of the red color is extracted from the skin of the grapes.
Blending finished white and red wines is outlawed in many countries. On the other hand, blending white and red grapes before fermentation to make rosé-type wines is a specialty in a number of countries, including Germany. Interestingly, it is allowed for producing sparkling wines in France and many rosé champagnes and other sparkling wines are produced by blending finished wines.
In Germany, there is a wine called ‘Schillerwein” that is produced by blending red and white grapes before fermentation. You can only find “Schillerwein” in the region of Württemberg in the south of Germany. Ideally, the red and white grapes are planted in mixed lots in the vineyards and are harvested and treated together.
The name of the wine has nothing to do with the famous German poet Friedrich von Schiller (although he is from Württemberg). The wine got its name from the verb “schillern”. The verb "schillern" means "to scintillate". “Schillerwein” is thus a wine with a scintillating color, reflecting the fact that the wine is a blend of red and white grapes.
In my wine cellar in McLean/Virginia I have a few bottles of “Schillerwein” in a 1 liter bottle produced by Weingut Dautel in Boennigheim/Württemberg. This is a simple refreshing summer wine with a taste slightly different from rosés made entirely out of red grapes reflecting the different fermentation process. You let the color come out fully, but at the end of the day the wine is not red, but rosé only, because of the blending with white grapes.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller
More generally, the German wine law fully recognizes this kind of wine and distinguishes between 4 types of wine.
(1) “Weisswein” ---white wine, made 100 percent out of white grapes;
(2) “Rotwein”---red wine, made 100 percent out of red grapes;
(3) “Roséwein”---rosé wine, made 100 percent out of red grapes, but with limited skin contact (often called “Weissherbst”); and
(4) “Rotling”—a wine made by blending red and white grapes before fermentation; blending red and white wine after fermentation is illegal. “Rotling” wines produced in Württemberg are called “Schillerwein”.