Friday, April 6, 2012

How-To... Enjoy Wine and Beer in Germany

In our short travels, we noticed some striking differences in the wine and beer culture of Europe compared to the US. 

The most obvious was the price. Its easy to see why wine is so much a part of the food culture, when a glass of wine costs the same as a bottle of sparkling water at even the best restaurants. It's much easier to have a different glass of wine with each course when ordering that second glass isn't going to double the cost of your meal. We were drinking excellent wine for the equivalent of $3 and $4/glass. (At our first dinner back in the States, Tina commented at how horrifying it was to be paying up to $14/glass here.)

Even more striking was the easy embrace of the local. In NYC, any restaurant that is serving NYS wine, or various local microbrews, will be sure to shout that fact from the rooftop. In Germany and Austria, it seems expected that a restaurant serves a local beer, and most often just one brand. Wine lists were a bit more varied, but especially in Vienna it seemed that House wines were just that, a brand of wine closely tied with the restaurant, as epitomized by the heuriger, or wine taverns. And the best restaurants we ate at had vast lists, including many imported wines, but they always seemed to focus on the most local wines first. Some of the most expensive wines on those lists, in fact, where the ones imported from California; they were still at about $6 or $7/glass, even in expensive Vienna.

We didn't take much time to explore wine country, but it seems like the vineyards along the Danube have embraced the US style of marketing, with free wine tastings by knowledgeable staff. But make sure your server speaks English, or your German is very strong, so you can keep up with the technical descriptions of wine. Or, in our case, just nod and smile, and enjoy the free drinks.

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