Oktoberfest will be observed with events in many places of the world this month, even though most of Oktoberfest in Germany actually takes place in September. Although German beer is featured at most Oktoberfest festivals, the wine experts at Jacques Scott reminded us over lunch at the restaurant Blue Cilantro that good wines come from Germany as well.
If you think about Oktoberfest, you probably think of good Bavarian beer. Good Bavarian beer is tough to come by in the Caribbean, but Jacques Scott carries a selection of good beers from Germany, including some from Bavaria. Beyond that, it also carries a number high-quality white and red wines from Germany and its Germanic neighbour, Austria.
Over a four-course lunch at Blue Cilantro restaurant on West Bay Road, Jacques Scott wine sale professionals Lee Royle, Sergio Serrano and Sarah Howard highlighted some German products the company’s retail outlets sell given that it was the Oktoberfest-time of the year.
Bitte ein Bit
Lunch began with Bitburger, a very popular pilsner beer made in Bitburg, in the central western part of Germany near the border with Luxembourg. The beer is widely known by its slogan ‘Bitte ein Bit’, which means ‘One Bit[burger] please’. This is a refreshing, light-bodied beer with 4.8 per cent alcohol, but with a pleasant bitterness from hops that makes Bitburger distinctly German.
“It’s nice to start with a beer for a change,” Royle said. In fact, with its bitterness, Bitburger is like many aperitifs and a perfect prelude to a meal. It was also an nice accompaniment to Blue Cilantro’s clay-oven breads, which were served with assorted chutneys and spreads.
Riesling for spice
Moving to the first course, Blue Cilantro served its crab cakes appetizer, which features a small avocado salad and a spicy mango aioli. The was paired with 2003 S.A. Prum Bernkasteler Lay ‘Erste Lage’ Riesling [Retail: $44.99].
Because of its high acidity, Rieslings - especially those from Germany - can age for a long time and Howard pointed out that the Bernkasteler Lay was still very young at nine years old. In fact, S.A. Prum says the wine has an aging capacity of an amazing 20 to 30 years.
Markus Marth, Blue Cilantro’s general manager and sommelier is a fan of the wine, noting its pronounced flavours of honey and elderflower.
“It has nice body and very good balance,” he said. “I like it.”
The wine paired well with the rich and somewhat spicy crab cakes. Because of its relatively low 11 per cent alcohol content and a touch of residual sugar, the Bernkasteler Lay - like most Rieslings - pairs very well with spicy dishes.
The next dish, however, was even spicier - pan-fried fresh snapper over Japanese udon noodles in a spicy coconut curry sauce.
The dish was tried with two beverages: Pinot Noir from the Franken region of Bavaria and another German beer.
Pinot Noir is very much a grape that exhibits a sense of terrior and as a result wines made from that grape differ considerably all over the world. Although Franken might not be a well-known wine-making region, the 2006 Fürst Pinot Noir Tradition was easily the most unique and interesting wine of the lunch.
Howard was immediately impressed, but noted that when first poured, the wine didn’t display its true colours.
“Out of the bottle, it’s shy,” she said, adding that some people might not understand the wine initially and write it off as bad when it was anything but bad.
With its high acidity and minimal tannins, Pinot Noir is in general a food friendly wine, and the Fürst’s low 12 per cent alcohol content allowed it to pair well with the spicy fish dish.
“The food really brought out the fruit in the wine,” said Serrano.
Made in an earthy, Old World-style but with the red berry fruit aromas and flavours still there in the background, this was a wine to contemplate.
“This is a great wine to carry you through a meal,” she said, noting that it evolved in the glass as time passed. “It’s compelling. It’s a wine that takes you back and back and back. It’s a woman you want to see again. It’s a good first date.”
Of course beer also pairs extremely well with spicy foods - including curry - so it was no surprise that Tucher Helles Hefe Weizen, a pale yeast beer made from wheat in Bavaria, paired well with the dish. The light-bodied 5.3 per cent alcohol beer had lemony tones to go with a sweet fruitiness that complemented the coconut in the spicy curry sauce.
For the final savoury course, Blue Cilantro presented a juicy New York strip steak, which was served with an equally juicy red wine: 2005 Leo Hillinger Hill 1, a blend of Merlot, Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
The Hill 1 is an elegant but powerful wine with good balance and aromas of spice, tobacco and black fruit. It’s a wine made for red meats.
“What I like about Hill 1 is that when you pop the cork, it’s ready to roll,” Royle said.
Howard said the wine was very up front on the palate, giving a nice flavours of complex fruits right away.
The Hill 1 is made in Germany’s neighbouring country Austria, but this is about as powerful as a red wine gets coming from one of the Germanic countries.
There are several moulten chocolate cakes served on Grand Cayman, but Blue Cilantro’s are different because there is ginger in the cake, giving it a more complex flavour. It was served with banana caramel ice cream and a fresh raspberry.
The final beverage slated for the afternoon was Köstritzer Schwarzbier, a black lager made in the spa town of Bad Köstritz in eastern Germany. However, no one had room for another beer. Trying one late though, it wasn’t nearly as strong as would be expected from its colour and, with tones of sweet black liquorice, it made it a great pairing with spicy food.