For one of the world’s most noble grapes, Riesling is pretty much unappreciated, misunderstood and under consumed by much of the world’s wine drinkers – especially in the USA. And that means we are really missing some special sips! We are a land long dominated by Chardonnay and infatuated with Sauvignon Blanc, so I think it’s time we got serious about Riesling. Many people carry the misconception that Riesling is a cheap sweet wine that comes in a tall blue bottle when it is really a wine that offers incredible stylistic variety, great age worthiness and terrific versatility with food.
Native to Germany, where it is celebrated as a national treasure, Riesling is a colder climate varietal that does well there and in other areas with shorter growing seasons like Austria, the Alsace Region of France, Canada’s Niagara Peninsula, the Finger Lakes Region of New York and, increasingly, Washington State.
As I wrote in German Wine 101, “Riesling has a wonderful balance of acidity and sugars, yielding wines that smack of ripe peaches along with spiciness, tanginess and mineralty.”
Be sure to visit that post because it is a great overview of the German approach to this wine.
What makes it so drinkable? The main thing that makes Riesling so drinkable and versatile is its naturally occurring high level of acidity. Much of the Riesling on the shelves has been produced with some residual sugar, and the balance between the acidity and some degree of residual sugar makes the wine drinkable with many different kinds of foods.
When it comes to Riesling my mantra is that “a little heat needs a little sweet.” In fact, Riesling seems ideally suited for just about any dish that has some spiciness so it’s one of my default wines with Asian dishes or Mexican flavors. I love Red Snapper Veracruz – grilled or baked fresh snapper filet covered in a salsa of onions, pepper, olives, tomatoes and capers paired up with a well chilled class of Riesling. But it’s also a perfect fit for seafoods and other fish dishes like clams casino, shrimp cocktail, a filet of sole or some seared scallops. And don’t forget the chicken stir fry or, given its heritage just about any sausage you like – along with the ideal (to me) German dish, Schnitzel with Spaetzle!
So let’s recap: what can you expect when you pour some Riesling in a glass?
- Aromas of peaches, apricots or honeysuckle and maybe a bit of lime but also a telltale note of petrol. Yes I said petrol. It sounds bad but when you sniff it you’ll know its not!
- Tastes of that ripe stone fruit along with a lush texture and that bit of sweet/tart balance of the sugar and acid all wrapped together with a slate – like mineralty that adds to the freshness in your mouth.
Time to Sip!
Ever Day Sip
2014 Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling Eroica, Columbia Valley $20
2015 Chateau Montelena Riesling $24
2014 Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling $14
August Kesseler R Riesling Kabinett 2014 $16
Unscrew it an enjoy.
2014 Dr Loosen Estate Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett $20
Great producer. Classic Kabinett profile.
2013 Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spatlese $15
Nice off-dry Spatlese for your brat!
2014 Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese $30
Lovely balance of acidity and sugar. Delightful to sip at the dinner table.
2013 J J Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese $50
Elegant wine – terrific producer.
Dr. Loosen Riesling Eiswein 2012 $80 375ml bottle