Welcome to Pro-Sips, our new series sharing pro-tips from sommeliers and wine experts! There’s so much to learn and explore within the world of German wine – 13 distinct regions offering numerous wine varieties in a range of styles – so to help you get started, we’re bringing wine wisdom from the pros straight to you.
Wendy Stanford’s German Wine Tips
We interviewed Wendy Stanford, Senior Wine Buyer at Wine.com, the premier national online retailer of wine and spirits in the United States. Wendy has been with Wine.com for over 15 years, working closely with suppliers and regional trade organizations from all over the world. Her career has given her incredible exposure and access to all aspects of the industry, while learning a great deal about consumer behaviors along the way.
As the Senior Wine Buyer for Wine.com, Wendy has traveled to winemaking regions across the globe and learned about different cultures, food, history, geography, science and more. In 2019, she completed Level Four Diploma from the WSET and has been a frequent judge for the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Get to know Wendy and read her Pro-Sips below!
Q1: How or why did you get into the wine industry, and at what point were you introduced to German wine?
I originally discovered a love for wine while living in San Francisco, being surrounded by so many great restaurants and living in such proximity to many world-class wine regions. I dove right in, taking classes, working weekends in a tasting room in Napa in addition to my regular full-time job, and tasting as many interesting wines as I could get my hands on. Like many people in this industry, I immediately fell in love and knew it was for me!
Before I got into wine, I often heard wine experts say German Riesling was one of their favorites. There is a reason for this. First, it has so many varying styles and aspects to learn– it never gets boring. Second, it is delicious! Balance is highly sought after by German winemakers, and the refreshing acidity found in this relatively cool region of the world really allows for greater complexity.
Q2: What German wine variety or style do you think deserves more attention and why?
Pinot Noir. Many consumers don’t think of red wine when they think of Germany, but there is some incredible Pinot Noir being produced. Sadly, we don’t see as much of it in the U.S., because so much of it gets consumed by savvy wine-lovers locally in Germany. But we’re seeing more access here in the U.S. At Wine.com we know there is demand; customers are buying up as much as we can get our hands on! Germany is cooler than some regions famous for Pinot noir, so it can be a lighter, leaner style. Great for pairing with so many types of foods!
Q3: What is an unusual German wine and food pairing you’ve tried that really works?
My favorite pairing is a classic, spicy Szechuan food with a Spätlese Riesling. The hint of sweetness and cool refreshing acidity really balances the spicy heat of this style of food.
Q4: What are some tips you can share for wine lovers to keep in mind when shopping for German wine?
Many beginner enthusiasts think they don’t like German Riesling because they assume it is sweet, and they think they don’t like that. If you can learn some of the basic classifications and sweetness levels shown on labels, it will help you a great deal. It ranges from absolutely bone dry to a dessert style wine, with everything in between. It is important to remember that even some of your favorite California reds, for example, might have more sugar than the German Riesling on the table! There are many other grape varieties to explore in Germany too, like Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Noir, and many others.
Q5: Finally, for all the wine lovers out there, what’s your favorite pro-sip about wine that more people should know?
Be open to new things! Styles, winemaking, viticulture, and climate are ever-changing, so don’t assume you only like a certain type of wine. Do a little quick research online for some background and take a chance on something new. Wine.com is a great resource to help you explore new territory. In-depth product and winery information, wine ratings from top critics, and customer reviews are just a few ways we can help you research something new. Wine is a great way to travel the world, without getting on an airplane.