Oktoberfest isn't only about beer

WINE-600
Silver Buckle Chardonnay

BUZZ: Hey Marnie, I found an Oktoberfest I love: Sierra Nevada. You know this festival is all about beer, right?

Marnie: Of course, Buzz, but it's funny that people think of the fall as the beer season when it's really wine season. The historical reason for Europe's fall festivals is to celebrate the harvest.

Oktoberfest may be huge in Germany, but if you look around you'll notice that September and October are also the time of year for Weinlesenfests - wine harvest festivals - because this is the time of year that grapes ripen and winemaking begins.

Buzz: Ha, that sounds like a whinefest right here. Everyone knows there are seasonal beers, but who ever heard of seasonal wines?

Marnie: What passes for seasonality in the beer world is more about marketing than the actual seasons. Sure, there used to be times of year when beers couldn't be brewed because it was too hot or too cold.

But nowadays, beer is never really "in season" because it's not made from anything freshly picked. With modern temperature control, brewers can bust out their malted grains and dried hops at any time of year.

Wine is another story entirely - grapevines only produce one crop per year, and it's critical for the grapes to be picked at exactly the right moment. In the northern hemisphere, that could come as early as late August or as late as November.

Buzz: OK, then why aren't there seasonal wines the same way there are seasonal beers?

Marnie: There are a lot of factors, but the main one is time. In any given year, brewers will crank out batch after batch of beer, and adjusting them for the season in which they'll be sold makes sense. Wine, on the other hand is made once a year, and may be released anywhere from a couple months to a couple years later depending on the style.

We certainly drink certain styles at certain times, though, based on what's seasonal foodwise. Personally, I think of autumn as the season for toasty, barrel-aged chardonnay and earthy pinot noir.

Buzz: I'll stick to the toasty flavors of my amber Oktoberfest lager.

Marnie: OK, but you should check out our local wine harvest festival called Vendemmia - it's coming up Oct. 4 at South Philly's Girard Park.

Buzz: I knew you'd tempt me. I love homemade South Philly Italian red.


Marnie Old is a local sommelier and wine author known for practical advice with real-world relevance. Her newest book, Wine: A Tasting Course, is an illustrated crash course for the wine curious. Marnie also advises clients in the beverage and restaurant trades. Check her out at MarnieOld.com or follow her on Twitter at @MarnieOld. Buzz's musings are interpreted by DailyNews Assistant Managing

Editor Gar Joseph.