Light Alcohol Wine: German Riesling Kabinett

As the month of January is Eating Light month at The Kitchn I thought that wine should also have its say on drinking lighter, and by that I mean wines with less alcohol. There was a time when almost all table wines were 12.5% in alcohol. Not anymore!

Look at the label of most wines that you buy, especially if they come from warmer climate, New World regions. You are bound to see at least 13%, but more likely 14% and even higher. So for those who still like to enjoy that glass or two over dinner but worry about the alcohol level, read on. There are many lower alcohol offerings from which to choose.

Forgive me if I revert to Germany and the merits of German Riesling. Yet again it comes out on top when it comes to versatile lower alcohol wines. One of my favorite styles of wine is German Kabinett level Riesling.

Kabinett is one of the six designated German Pradikat (QmP) wines. It is the lightest style of German wine. Unless labeled as ‘Trocken’ (dry), these wines are off dry. They have tremendous acidity, which totally balances out the residual sweetness in the wine. This marriage of acid and sugar, combined with that unique Riesling purity of fruit results in wines of great elegance and finesse. Kabinett wines, unless ‘trocken,’ range from as low as 8% in alcohol to about 11.5%.

Riesling Kabinett wines are perfect food wines (though also delightful when sipped on their own). Refreshing and packed with ripe fruit, they are very versatile at the table. Their off-dry character means that they pair superbly with Asian and spicy dishes. So, when you next have a Pad Thai, Vietnamese Spring roll, Peking Duck, or Thai Red Curry reach for a glass of German Kabinett Riesling. It will certainly not disappoint, and at 8-11% alcohol, you can even have a second glass.

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Some great Kabinetts that I've tried recently are:

2007 Gysler Weinheimer Riesling, QmP Kabinett, Rheinhessen, 8.5% alcohol, $16 - Racy, crisp, juicy and brimming with ripe peach, apricot and guava flavors.

2006 Heribert Boch Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling QmP Kabinett, halbtrocken, Mosel, 11.5% alcohol, $16 - Elegant, minerally and off-dry. Lovely nectarine, elderflower and honeysuckle aromas and flavors.

2006 Weingut Johannishof ‘V’ Riesling QmP Kabinett, Rheingau 9.5% alcohol, $16 - Bright and tangy, ripe peach, ruby grapefruit, mango and lots of stony minerality.

2006 Darting Dürkheimer Hochbenn Riesling QmP Kabinett, Pfalz, 11% alcohol, $15 - Crisp and refreshing. Full of white peach, pineapple and juicy citrus notes with a great spicy tang on the finish.

Good quality Kabinett level German Riesling wines are widely available in the United States. Some good stores include:

Astor WInes (Manhattan, NY)
Sherry-Lehmann (Manhattan, NY)
PJ Wine (Manhattan, NY)
Zachy's (Scarsdale, NY)
KL Wine (San Francisco and Redwood City,CA)
Wine.com
Grapes of Norwalk (Norwalk, CT)
B 21 (Tarpon Springs, FL)
Beltway Fine Wine (Towson, MD)
Wine Legend (Livingston, NJ)

Are there other lighter wines that you are enjoying at the moment that you'd like to share with our readers?

I'd love to hear from you.

Until next week, enjoy some great German Riesling Kabinett!

- Mary

Related: Wines to Keep: Robert Weil Riesling

(Top image: Flickr member J. Star licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.