Riesling is the most versatile of grapes. A wine made of the varietal can be dry or sweet, depending on the ripeness of the grape at harvest and the wine maker’s intention. The grape can be used to make Late Harvest sophisticated dessert wines, or bracing, racy, bone dry wines, and lots in between.
Why then, do many wine drinkers shun the varietal? When asked, the response includes a scrunchy face “too sweet.” Riesling’s traditional homes, Germany and the Alsace region of France, have short growing seasons. Hence, in many years a dry wine may be the only choice of a vintner. The fruit may not naturally ripen to a point where a sweet wine can be made. A vintner then must choose between adding sugar, or producing a dryer wine. Because the number of climates in the world that are able to fully ripen wine grapes is limited, sweet wines have been perennially valued. Particularly, those wines that tantalize the palate by having a good balance of acidity.
This is where Riesling reigns supreme. A well-made Riesling will have a mouth watering acidity that is irresistible. This not only balances the sweet on your palate, it also enables the wine to age. Time will allow complexities in the wine to be revealed. A well-made Riesling can be cellared for years.
Another big advantage to Riesling is that it pairs well with so many foods. It even tastes good with hard to match foods, such as ham, asparagus and artichokes. Its acidity goes well with rich foods, yet it also enhances spicier foods like curries and sushi. It tastes well as an aperitif and with dessert.
If you are one of the unfortunate who have not tasted the range of Rieslings, here are some suggestions for you to taste firsthand why this varietal has been so valued over time:
Trimbach Riesling 2006 Alsace, France $17.99 750 ml (Argonaut Liquors)
A classic Alsatian Riesling, this has a complex bouquet with a minerally acidity sure to surprise those who’ve only tasted sweet examples of this varietal.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Semi Dry Riesling 2002 Finger Lakes, New York $18.49 (Argonaut Liquors)
A light, golden hued liquid, fruitier, less mineral flavors, with ripe fruity aromas of melon, pear and pineapple.
Pacific Rim Vin De Glaciere Riesling Selenium Vineyard 2007, Columbia Valley Washington $14.99 375 ml (Keg Liquors)
The Pacific Rim Vin de Glaciere is an Ice Wine made from quite ripe fruit that is frozen to concentrate the grape sugar. The resulting wine is sweet with pear, melon, mango and honey flavors as well as some spice. You’ll be surprised that the acidity level makes it taste light and aromatic
Once you have tasted a good representative of this varietal, you’ll be justifiably hooked. To learn more about the wonderful flavors of Riesling, click here.