Rheinhessen Silvaner – Germa-russ-ican Bierock

The world of food is full of oddities. Ask a German about Bierock and he will assume it is the latest VW model. Ask foodies in the United States and Bierock is a comfort food dish of German heritage, common in the Midwest – sometimes called Runza, too. It is bread-y on the outside, it contains cabbage and meat, and it came to the US with German immigrants over a centenary ago. Interestingly the immigrants with Bierock in their luggage migrated from German colonies in the Volga region of Russia (think halfway between Moscow and the Caspian Sea), where they had grown their very own food culture. That detour is the reason why in today’s Germany Bierock is unknown.

A piece of german food culture in the US – Bierock aka Runza

With Silvaner, it is all vice versa… Mention Silvaner and non-German vinophiles will give you a blank look. But the average German will know it is a white wine varietal, very much at home in the wine regions of Franconia and Rheinhessen.

I took the freedom to give my Bierocks the appearance of Empanadas – it’s the easiest to shape. The pastry: a no-frills savory shortcrust made up of flour, butter and water. The filling: minced beef, mild sauerkraut, onion, tomato paste, black pepper, paprika and caraway seeds. Add a side salad and it’s a meal!

Compared to Bierock’s journey, the Silvaner varietal is a couch potatoe. Arrived from Austria in the German wine making region of Franconia in the mid 17 century it didn’t get on further than Rheinhessen, about two crumbs left on the map.  And here, in Rheinhessen, Silvaner has seen some ups and downs: initially very widespread it had to yield both acreage and fame to Riesling – but with interest in autochthonous varietals growing, there is a comeback at the horizon. In the affordable range biodynamic winemaker Wittmann’s Westhofen Silvaner 2018 is amongst those leading the way. This is a juicy, rich, summer-meadow-ish, and vibrant rep of the Silvaner-Wein species. It’s tingly palate makes for a very decent match to the savory, slightly acidic aromas of our food.

Willkommen in Deutschland Bierock!