UK Wine Merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd 1896 price list  TimPawsey photo

UK Wine Merchants Berry Bros. 1896 price list gives Hock its due, TP photo

Germany’s in the spotlight at BC Liquor Stores this month, which found us digging in our archives  for this weekend’s North Shore News column

With spring our thoughts turn once again more to white wines and lighter fare, which means, if you’ll pardon the phrase, Hock rocks.

As an English-born Canadian, I’ve always found the connection between England and Riesling to be quite fascinating. Until two world wars (and something called Liebfraumilch) somewhat put the kibosh on things, “Hock” as it was known, ruled. And, for a while was very much the white wine in vogue.

In fact, Sir Winston Churchill was not above having a glass of Hock for lunch instead of his customary, beloved Pol Roger. But it was Queen Victoria who helped elevate Hock to compete with Claret or Burgundy as it’s never done before or since.

Victoria and Albert monument, at Hochheim, Tim Pawsey photo

The other Victoria and Albert monument

In 1854, the Queen and her beloved (German born) Prince Albert traveled through the Rheingau. The occasion is commemorated by a substantial, seven metre high monument at Hochheim.

Then as now, when word of the Queen’s interest (real or feigned) hit the British press, what the royals were drinking was all that mattered.  And they were drinking some of the best dry Rieslings around. Not known for their inclination to tolerate foreign words (or, at the time, even foreigners for that matter), the Brits decided that saying “Riesling” or “Hochheim” was just too much trouble: “Hock” it was.

When I was last in Germany, winery owner Gunter Kunstler (whose vineyards overlook the monument) produced a copy of an 1896 price list (click for full size) from London wine and spirit merchants Berry Brothers.  It clearly shows “Hock” priced right up there with “Claret” (Bordeaux) such as Lafite and Margaux; great marques of Champagne of the time such as Laurent Perrier and Pommery; and with revered Burgundies such as Corton, Volnay and Vougeot—a lofty position indeed.

Vineyards in Rheinhessen, Tim Pawsey photo

Vineyards in Rheinhessen, TP photo

All this by way of a nod to this month’s theme at BC Liquor Stores, Perfect Pairings: Asian Flavours & German Wines, which not surprisingly focuses (though not exclusively) on quite a few “Hocks”, which indeed absolutely fit the bill as good partners for Asian cuisine and much more.

Combine Riesling’s food flexibility with its usually lower alcohol and you can see why this variety continues to grow in popularity.

Here’s a few good drops (among many) to consider…

• Balthasar Ress “Hattenheimer Schutzenhaus” Riesling Kabinett 2010. (Rheingau) If you’re looking to step up from your regular Riesling drop, this single vineyard is a great place to start: mineral and petrol hints wrapped in an austere sleekness balanced by pear and apple before a lingering finish. BCLS $23.99 / 91 pts.

• Schloss Reinhartshausen Dry Riesling 2011. (Rheingau) Up front tropical notes followed by a fruit forward palate of stone fruit and citrus with a crisp clean end. BCLS $19.99 / 89 pts.

• St. Urbans-Hof ‘Bockstein’ Riesling 2010. (Mosel) Juicy, fruit forward style with a broad palate, apple, mineral and even some leesy hints that suggest it’s still very much evolving. $19.99 / 89 pts.

• Blufeld Riesling QBA (Mosel) 2010. The flashy blue bottle sets it apart and this off-dry, medium sweet style is definitely a crowd pleaser. It strikes a nice balance with good mouth feel,  assertive lemon zest and mineral notes plus developing “petrol” as it starts to show some age. Drink it with something Thai and spicy that has lemon grass. Good value indeed, $14.99 88 pts.


Sunday, April 7, 2013, 2 – 5 pm.

BC Liquor Stores at 39th & Cambie presents a free tasting featuring 12 German wines of all styles offered with Indian pakoras—and a copy of Jeannie Cho-Lee’s very useful  booklet on Asian pairings.

Slate roof detail at Schloss Vollrads, Tim Pawsey photo

Slate roof detail at Schloss Vollrads, TP photo