Germany’s tasting of the year

Each year, Germany’s sommeliers head to Neustadt an der Weinstraße, to taste the finest wines in the world. Felicity Carter went along.

Saalbau
Photo: Ralf Ziegler - Ad Lumina

There were tables covered in Riedel Champagne glasses. There were tables for white wine glasses. There was the red wine table, and the table for Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo glasses. In short, even the most discerning sommeliers had the right glassware to hand, as needed. 

Local knowledge

Even better, they had the world’s most acclaimed wines to explore, and a whole day to do it.

The best of the best

The occasion was Meininger’s Finest 100 International Wine Summit, a two-day event which each November brings together Germany’s sommeliers for an immersion in education and tasting. The first day consists of a seminar, which this year covered topics such as Champagne ageing, Austria’s Erste Lagen and Beaujolais.

The second day, the sommeliers are let loose on a tasting of the world’s top wines, held in the Saalbau in Neustadt an der Weinstraße, the pretty town that’s the wine capital of the Rhineland Pfalz, a swestern state of Germany. Each year, 100 wineries pour their wines, by invitation only, with the line-up changing each year. This year the wineries included such names as Château Pontet-Canet, Tempos Vega Sicilia and Champagne Jacquesson.

So what brings such great names together, especially when the weather is so cold?

“We’re here because we were invited and it’s an honour,” said Christoph Kammüller from Spain’s Familia Torres. He added that Germany is one of the world’s major export markets and so connecting with its gastronomy is important. “This is a top event in Germany.”

John Novak Milliken from Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery in the Napa Valley had come, he said, because it was a wonderful chance for a winery without a big marketing budget to put its wines in front of important influencers. “Our total production is eight thousand cases,” he said. “We export ten per cent to Germany, Switzerland and the Benelux countries.” His wife Beth Novak Milliken, president and CEO, was also in the room, but was not available to interview, as it was her turn to circulate the room and taste the wines on offer.

Matthias Aldinger, winemaker at Germany’s Weingut Aldinger, said the only problem about coming was that he had to come alone, because the colleague scheduled to accompany him couldn’t make it. “We wanted to be two so one could be at the stand while the other one got to taste,” he said. “This event is the highest standard we have.”

And with that, no more interviews were possible, because everyone was too busy pouring and tasting. 

This was the third edition of the Meininger’s Finest 100 International Wine Summit, organised by Sascha Speicher, editor-in-chief of Sommelier magazine, which is also published by Meininger Verlag.

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