If you’ve lived in, been to or known someone from Germany, you’ve probably had a glass of Sekt. If not, allow me to tell you what Sekt is.
Sekt is a term for sparkling wine that is produced within Germany using either the Méthode champagnoise or the Charmat method. Sekt produced using the Méthode champagnoise is usually a tad more expensive as the second fermentation takes place in the bottle rather than in a steel tank which describes the other (Charmat) method (this interestingly is how most Prosecco is made). Perlwein and Schaumwein are the proper words to describe sparkling whereby the bubbles were added without a secondary fermentation. Right, so most of you already have knew that.
Sekt is usually made using Grundweine (basis wines) most of which originate from France’s Loire Valley but can even come from as far away as Italy and Spain. A bit of German is added to the mix, then it’s bottled and sold.
Leaving the boring stuff behind for a moment, allow me to explain what Sekt really is. Sekt is a product that defies sparkling wine altogether. In Germany, you do not need a special occasion to buy and drink Sekt – a quiet Thursday night alone in front of the TV: you can drink Sekt. Going over to a mates and can’t be bothered to bother schlepping (laboriously carrying) a case of beer: take Sekt. Be invited to a department store’s grand opening: yep, Sekt is on the menu.
Of course, the Germans are cultured and, in stark contrast to the English, actually most of them have a grounded basis-knowledge when it comes down to wine. What does that mean? Well, if there’s something to celebrate, Champagne is on the cards – they’re well aware of Sekt usually being Billig-Fusel (cheap booze).
But there is a type of Sekt which is perfectly drinkable. The word Sekt has been dropped by many wineries because of its affiliation with such terrible products as Söhnlein, Rotkäppchen, Henkell, Jules Mumm, MM and the various non-brands of the discounters. Winzersekt, these days usually referred to as Crémant, is good stuff. Produced usually within a local wine-producing region with a vintage and grape varietal declaration, Winzersekt (literally vintner's sparkling wine) is the well-made bubbly of the named vintner using vines grown on their land and with a Q.b.A declaration (equivalent of Qualitätswein).
The tending towards the word Crémant echoes that of the French producers who love to mention their AOCs on the bottles commanding more respect and indirectly a higher price tag. If you’re lucky enough to find Winzersekt, you’ll find it well-priced, approachable and actually quite pleasant – certainly in the same league as most supermarket Champagnes. The best stuff is produced using the méthode traditionelle (sometimes written as Flaschengärung (bottle fermentation)) and is obtained from the winery directly.
Drink it young
Mosel Winzersekt is made usually using Elbling however many wineries are reverting to the popular Riesling grape which is the trend in the Rheingau (and has been since almost forever). In Baden it is commonly made using Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris) and Weißer Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) although Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier) and Chardonnay are also commonly used (the wine-people amongst you will realise the intention of mentioning such varietals).
In Württemberg, Blanc de Noirs is king with the local Lemberger and Trollinger making up the most of the cuvees with Kerner (Riesling x Trollinger) playing a major role.
Of course in Saale-Unstrut, the home production region of Rotkäppchen, Europe’s most successful sparkling wine producer, little of the wine is made using local grapes. Chenin Blanc from France is the key ingredient to most Sekt although the local producers, along with those in Sachsen, use primarily Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) for their standalone Q.b.A Winzersekte.
Franken loves Schwarzrielsing (Pinot Meunier) and so the traditional Champagne cuvee (albeit mostly without Chardonnay) is the favourite here.
Ahr, Nahe, Mittelrhein and Hessische Bergstraße are far too small to produce a large amount of Sekt and so cannot be featured as having tendencies.
Rheinhessen and Pfalz account for most of the rest of the Sekte produced. Although most wineries do produce Winzersekte, the wines from the generic region are probably the best known in Germany: Henkell, Mumm etc.). Winzersekt is usually made using Riesling although there are so many producers in the region that it is difficult to label the whole winemaking practise in one grape variety or cuvee type.
So Sekt isn’t always to be avoided. Winzersekt is a great alternative to Champagne, Cava and Prosecco and, at least in Germany, a great deal cheaper too. Good luck finding it though outside of the country.