The Italians have their frizzante, the French have their vin pétillant, and the Germans—they have Perlwein.
Perlwein? Was ist dass?
That’s exactly the question I asked myself the other day when confronted with my first glass of Perlwein. Perlwein is a semi-sparkling wine. You may be familiar with the term Sekt, the name Germans use to refer to “fully” sparkling wine. Both are bubblies, but less so with Perlwein. The difference lies is the amount of CO2 pressure in the bottle as measured at a temp. of 20°C. Perlwein has a CO2 pressure between 1 and 2.5 bars; whereas in Sekt, the pressure is 3 bars or greater.
All proceeds go to the German Navy…
Aside from less fizz attack on the palate, the difference in CO2 is significant in that Perlwein is not subjected to the infamous Schaumwein tax. Introduced by Emperor Wilhelm II in 1902, the Schaumwein (literally “foaming wine”) tax was established to fund the expansion of the Imperial Navy. This tax applies to Sekt and is still in existance (as of 2005, it stands at €1.02/750mL bottle). Incidently, a Perlwein can be subjected to the Schaumwein tax if it comes with the traditional sparkling wine closure, i.e. designated cork and safety cage.
“mit zugesetzter Kohlensäure”
As with other semi-sparkling wines, the bubbles in Perlwein may develop during a secondary fermentation in tanks that is interrupted before the wine becomes fully sparkling. Bubbles can also be made artificially by injecting CO2 into the finished wine. In this case, the process must be stated on the label—look for the expression Perlwein mit zugesetzter Kohlensäure or “Perlwein with added CO2”
MICHEL—Dass ist Müller-Thurgau
The Perlwein I tasted was a personal label by Walter und Nicholas Michel of Schloss Muhlenhof in Rheinhessen, Germany. It was made with 100% Müller-Thurgau and had a very aromatic nose (a bit like Muscat) with a pleasantly fruity flavor and loads of fizz—I’d guess this one was bordering on the 2.5 CO2 bars limit because the fizz-factor was quite intense.