Another one of my favorite white wines is Riesling. There are four basic Riesling flavor profiles: dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling. My preference is a dry Riesling with a high acidity level.
Riesling is rated as one of the top three white wines produced around the world. It ranks right behind Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling, like Chardonnay, is one of the few white wines that has the ability, due to its high levels of acidity, to age for years and years (higher quality Rieslings age the best). It also (normally) improves as it ages. Due to the Riesling’s ability to age for long periods of time, it is known as a collector’s wine. Let us take an in-depth look at Rieslings.
The Taste of Riesling
Riesling starts with intense aromas of orchard fruit such as crisp apple, apricots, nectarine and pears. Its dominate flavors on the palate are lime, green apple, beeswax, jasmine and sometimes even gasoline (that comes from a natural compound in the grapes called TDN). It has high acidity and a strong finish.
Riesling was born in Rhine wine region in Germany sometime around 1435-1440. From its origination it was known as the wine of German nobility and they transported the wine with them as they traveled Europe. History tells us that another name for Rieslings was RieBlinger as it was found in many estate records under that name. In 2015 the Riesling grape was the most grown variety in all of Germany.
There are a number of major Riesling grape growing areas around the world. Here are a few interesting facts about this wine:
- The region where the grapes are grown has a major impact on the wine’s sweetness and is truly a wine of its specific terroir. It is often referred to as “terroir expressive.”
- The major Riesling growing areas around the world are: Germany, France (Alsace region), Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States, specifically the states of Washington, California, Michigan and New York.
- German and California Rieslings tend to be a little on the sweeter side. However, you can tell their sweetness level by looking at the wine label. The dryer the wine the less sweet it will be. German labels will have the words “Kabinett Troken” printed on them. Troken means “dry.” California Rieslings will have the word “dry” printed on them.
- Rieslings from the Alsace region of France, Austria, and the Finger Lakes region of New York State and Washington State tend to be dryer wines. With these regions the wineries don’t print “dry” on their labels. They assure that all seasoned Riesling drinkers will know that wines from these regions are dry (a fact that I wasn’t aware of).
- Australia and New Zealand Rieslings range from sweet to dry. Australia Rieslings tend to have an oily texture in their youth with a smooth balance of freshness and acidity as they age. New Zealand Rieslings are lighter and more delicate wines, again ranging from sweet to dry.
- Austrian Rieslings are typically thick-bodied wines that coat your palate. They also tend to have a long finish that includes hints of heat or white pepper. These wines are typically sweet but do have higher alcohol levels and don’t tend to age well, typically reaching flavor peak at around five years.
Riesling Food Pairing
Riesling is a very versatile wine for pairing with food. Due to its balance of sugar (sweetness) and acidity it can easily be paired with many foods:
Duck, pork, turkey, white fish and certain sea foods such as shrimp and crab
Spices and Herbs
Because of their sweetness and acidity Rieslings pair well with spicy food such as Indian, Asian and Mexican foods
Sweet Rieslings pair well with salty cheese such as:
- Blue Cheese
- Aged Gouda
- Parmigiano Reggiano
Semi-Dry Rieslings pair well with semi-hard, medium-aged cheeses such as:
- Young Cheddar
- Monterey Jack
Dry Rieslings pair well with creamy cheeses such as:
If you haven’t tried Riesling wines in awhile I recommend you do so. I also recommend that you keep some various Rieslings in your wine collection. The wine should be served at a temperature of 55 to 57 degrees. Remember not to chill it too much.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- February 18th – National Drink Wine Day
- March 3rd – National Mulled Wine Day
- April 17th – International Malbec Day
- May 3rd – International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 9th – World Moscato Day
- May 23rd – International Chardonnay Day
- May 25th – National Wine Day
- June 8th – National Rosé Wine Day
- June 20th – National Lambrusco Day