Tag der Deutschen (W)Einheit: A history lesson
Each year, 3rd October marks Germany’s bank holiday called Tag der Deutschen Einheit (German Unity Day), which remembers Germany’s reunification in 1990 – a fairly recent birth for a national holiday linked to the country’s complicated history. In case you are not that familiar with it: After the end of the Second World War and once the occupying forces had withdrawn (the Soviet Union in the East and France, Great Britain, and the US in the West), Germany was split into two countries. In the West, the Federal Republic was established, whilst the GDR under Soviet influence was born in the East. Both governments pursued a completely different political and economic course. The collapse of the totalitarian GDR government, which imprisoned those with different political opinions and prevented people from leaving the country for the West by building the Berlin Wall, finally led to a peaceful revolution in 1989 and 1990. That same year, the Unification Treaty was signed, and ever since then Germany has celebrated the beginning of reunified democracy in the country.
Let’s travel Germany!
Anyone else hungry after this history lesson? Well, we have got you covered… with typical German dishes and wine pairings, of course! It is true that German cuisine according to stereotypes is pretty blend and boring – but in reality, German specialities are quite diverse, reflecting the regional differences of the 16federal states that stretch from Schleswig Holstein next to the North Sea down to Bavaria in the south. And don’t forget about the wine either: check out this recent guide about the country’s great white wines, featuring the most important regions as well as the somewhat complicated classification system! But now, let’s embark on a culinary journey through Germany – Ran an die Buletten! (This expression literally means “Get to the meatballs!”, an expression that is used to say, “Let’s get going!”)
We will start our journey in the city Hamburg in Northern Germany. Hamburg is famous for its gigantic harbour (also for the rain, unfortunately, so bring an umbrella!) and so, of course, you will find a lot of fresh seafood here, especially at the popular fish market which takes place every Sunday. The most traditional way to enjoy fish here is in the form of a sandwich with either herring, mackerel or smoked salmon. Since these fish all display quite aromatic and strong flavours, we recommend choosing a light and fruity red wine. Opt for a Pinot Noir, for example. Its aromas of red fruits and soft tannins will complement the smoky, spicy fish flavours. Another option would be to pair the fish sandwich with a sparkling wine or crémant.
Berlin: Currywurst and doner kebab
From Hamburg, we take the Deutsche Bahn to Germany’s capital, Berlin. Berlin is an international, culturally rich city where you’ll find dishes from all over the world. It is so hard to pin down ONE specialty because of the many different nations that have made the city what it is today, which is why we are offering you two wine and food pairings for Germany’s capital! One that certainly stands out is the famous currywurst (sausage in curry-flavoured tomato sauce), that has completely changed its reputation of being a simple canteen food to being a hip and modern snack. There are now options of different sauces, bread and even the sausage itself since Berlin is also famous for its many vegan restaurants. The spicy currywurst would be best paired with a glass of white, acidic wine. A dry German Riesling could be the perfect pairing here, since the precise acidity and fruity aromas will add freshness to the meaty dish.
Did you know that the famous doner kebab was also invented in Berlin, according to urban legends? A Turkish immigrant apparently had the idea to put the doner meat in a pita bread in the 1970s, and the rest is history… Today, you can get doner kebabs almost everywhere in the world. Pair your doner kebab with a wine that displays a lot of fruit and acidity and can balance out the spiciness of the standard doner sauce. A classic Sauvignon Blanc might seal the deal!
We are leaving Northern Germany, and going further south, by crossing central Germany and to finally reach the west of the country. If you are a wine enthusiast, you are probably already familiar with the region since it is internationally known for its excellent Rieslings – that you could, of course, pair with some of the classic dishes. One of them being the Buletten, also called Frikadellen, we already mentioned in our introduction… Frikadellen are essentially small meat balls made out of minced meat, eggs and herbs eaten with potato salad, and sometimes with pretzels as well. We recommend serving a well-balanced Riesling – in fact, we at iDealwine also got to enjoy this exact combination recently when we were celebrating the launch of our German website with a German-themed feast. Our chosen wine was a Riesling by the domain Willi Schaefer, one of the flagship producers in the Mosel region. The freshness and balanced acidity will underline the herbs from the meatballs and go well with the lighter salad. And, to reassure you even more, this combination was tested and approved by a whole cohort of experts and wine lovers!
Bavaria in the south is known worldwide for its beer and Oktoberfest that takes place in Munich each year, but it is also known for one of the few vegetarian classics: Käsespätzle. In case you don’t know what we are talking about, Spätzle are made from flour, water and eggs usually. They can be enjoyed as a side dish alongside different meats like the famous Braten or they can be pimped up with flavourful, hearty, and aromatic cheese like Emmental, Gouda or Comté and a LOT of caramelized onions. And now, on to the most important question: what wine would go well with this dish? To go well with the fattiness from the cheese, it works best to choose a wine with high acidity and complex aromas. You could opt for a dry Chenin Blanc, or even a lighter Chardonnay.
Baden-Württemberg: Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
Of course, this article wouldn’t be complete without a dessert. The most famous one, apart from apple strudel – a dessert that is also claimed by Austrians, by the way – is probably Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte or Black Forest gâteau. Its name stems from the Schwarzwald in southern Germany, a large, forested mountain range in the state Baden-Württemberg. This is a chocolate and cream layered cake with a rich filling and completed with whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and cherries. Because this is definitely a dish on the sweeter side, it is best to pair it with a wine that has some residual sugar, like a Port for example! The nutty aromas of a Tawny would go very well with the sweet chocolate. Another way pairing idea for this hearty dessert is to add some bubbles – bring a level of freshness and compliment the fruity aromas from the cherry with some champagne!