German Christmas gifts: Sekt

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

It’s only fitting to end this list of German Christmas gifts with an item that symbolizes celebration and new beginnings. With Silvester, or New Year, just one week away, it’s time to start stocking up on the beverage synonymous with gala, glamour and the good life: sparkling wine. Since we’re in Germany, we’re going to forgo the French stuff, champagne, in favor of the German product: Sekt.

What’s the difference between the two? In many ways it comes down to a question of geographical origin. Only grapes grown in a very specific part of France, the Champagne region, can rightfully be termed champagne. Other European countries enjoy their own versions of sparkling wines: Italy has spumante and Spain has cavas, for example.

Sparkling wine, simply put, is wine with enough carbon dioxide (CO2) in it to make it fizzy. Methods of production range from the most basic tank method to the labor-intensive traditional method. In terms of sweetness, Sekt is available in a profile ranging from the bone-dry brut to the very sweet mild.

In Germany, a bottle labeled simply Sekt will be made of a base wine sourced from Germany or another EU country. “Deutscher Sekt” indicates that the product’s base wines were sourced wholly within Germany. “Winzersekt” is a premium item made of a single vintage and grape variety, estate grown and bottled, and prepared by the traditional method in which it ages on its lees (residual yeast) for a minimum of nine months. Riesling and the Pinot varieties are amongst those most commonly used as the base wine.

German Sekt has a direct link to France’s fine houses of champagne. Germany’s oldest producer of sparkling wines, the House of Kessler in Esslingen, got its start in 1826. Its founder, Georg Christian von Kessler, gained the know-how for his undertaking through his work at Veuve Clicquot, one of Reims’ most famous champagne houses.

As the midnight hour approaches on Dec. 31, why not raise a toast to your temporary homeland with a bottle of something so deeply rooted to it? Prost!

Travel tip: The House of Kessler in Esslingen, just outside Stuttgart, offers a fascinating tour through its brand and history. In the depths of the medieval vaults of its wine cellar, you’ll learn all about the art of sparkling wine production. The 1.5 hour tour costs 17 euros and concludes with the tasting of three sparkling wines.

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