Wine with Food: Liebfraumilch
By Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. | February 1983
You will notice that I have changed the name of this column. For 14 issues now, the emphasis has been on the meal, with the serving of a wine as the complement. Thus—Wine with Food, was the natural title. I make a particular point of this because of my personal belief that we Americans miss a lot in enjoyment of our food by not serving wine with it. As I have stated before, wine is a wonderful accompaniment for our meals, because of its varieties, its naturalness, and its mildness in alcoholic content. I shudder every time I see a sweet soft drink being served as a beverage with even the humblest of meals, or when the cocktails follow to the dinner table.
For this new series, the emphasis will be different. Food with Wine will deal with the particular type of wine. I have chosen this tack for the next few months so we can explore together the characteristics of various wines, and then select the food that can accompany it. If for example you were given a fine bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Chardonnay, or maybe a Chambertin, what would you serve with them to do the wine justice and to enjoy the special treat? However, we will not restrict ourselves to the traditionally well known wines. I am interested in the entire spectrum of wine. Many good wines exist in the lower end of the price scale that deserve your attention.
I chose my first wine by the holy company it keeps. “Now”, you will say, “what Monastic wine is he going to talk about?” It is not of that order! It is the one with flowing vestments billowing in the wind, riding on a bicycle in the countryside. That is the current version of the TV commercials for the wine. For myself, I preferred the old radio series by Stellar and Myra, and the wine that goes with everything.
There is no question that you can serve Liebfraumilch with everything. But the problem is, what goes best with it? I can think of half a dozen foods that will not do justice to the wine, and vice versa, the wine will do nothing for the food.
What is Liebfraumilch? There must be a hundred brands of this very popular German wine on the market. Originally it is a wine from the Rheinhessen region of Germany from vineyards around the town of Worms, and the 15th Century Church of Liebfrauenkirche. The popularity of the wine grew tremendously, and its source of origin was extended to include the Palatinate, Rheingau, middle Rhine, and Nahe regions. The original riesling grape was replaced by blends of the Sylvaner and Muller Thurgau grapes. So now, Liebfraumilch, the German wine most often seen on Wine Lists is a white wine blend of “good quality and pleasing taste” according to the authorities. The brands will differ from slightly sweet to medium sweet, based on the particular winemakers style. The wine is usually low in acid, and therefore not tart. It is usually a light bodied, mellow, fruity, pleasant quaffing wine. It has no aging potential, and if your wine is vintaged, be sure and drink it young. Do not buy any that is over three years old. It starts losing its fruitiness, and not much is left.
Now—other than serving it with everything, because they say it goes with everything, let’s see what we can serve with it that will do the most for it. (Far be it that I discourage anybody! If you like Liebfraumilch, and only Liebfraumilch; then by all means drink Liebfraumilch. But when you do, you will find that some meals seem to embrace it, and others just ho-hum it.) First and foremost, it is a very suitable apperitif wine in the American sense (in contrast to French or Italian apperitif). Makes an excellent cocktail replacement. If you use it that way, serve light hors d’oeuvres, cream cheese type, fruit type, poultry type. For using with a meal, plan it with a luncheon, fresh seafood salads, fruit salads, poultry salads or sandwiches, and picnic fare of the same varieties. For dinner, light fish entrees, chicken Veronique, and turkey ala king will be some of the dishes that will do the most for this popular wine. For dessert, I suggest fruit tart for this wine.