Wine List Value Plays: Riesling

Dry Rieslings

All Rieslings are sweet and Yuck!  Perhaps double yuck and don’t you know sugar kills?

That’s how a lot of people feel about Rieslings and fortunately for the rest of us, they are dead wrong.  Rieslings are made in a range of sweetness from bone dry to luscious, dessert in a glass.  I suppose it is this preconceived notion that this elegant wine is always sweet is the reason it is out of favor and following the general and unfortunate downward slide of sweeter wines.

Let’s dig into Riesling and then look for what to order at your favorite restaurant.

Germany is the King of Riesling. The grape loves the cooler climate and the sloped slate vineyards.  Unfortunately, this cooler climate means they are always in pursuit of ripeness, which is to say sugar, in the grapes used to produce the wine.  Some of the best areas are Mosel, Reingau and Nahe.  The Germans have been growing this grape and making wine for over 500 years, so they have the hang of it. But excellent and bone dry wines with this grape are also made in France in Alsace, Austria, the Finger Lakes of the USA  and in Australia in Clare Valley and some other areas.

Dry Rieslings have wonderful stone fruit and tropical fruits as well as floral notes with a crisp acidity that many of us are seeking in our white wine.  They go well with medium weight white proteins as well as lighter sauces.  Having said that, I could see drinking them throughout a meal and being very happy.

When selecting a German Riesling, stick with the areas I indicated above and go for a Kabinett or a Troken style wine, which are the driest styles made in Germany.   One of the things people confuse in good dry Riesling is the very, very little sugar in the wine versus the ripeness of the fruit on the nose and the palate.

So, what are the go to wines on the list?

  • First order for a solid and inexpensive wine is a Clare Valley Riesling. 
  • Second is a dry German and the third is a French Riesling from Alsace. 
  • While Austria and the USA make solid Rieslings, they are less common on a list (though no less worth trying!)

Riesling presents an opportunity to zig when everyone else is zagging.  So have a laugh while slurping down this delicious and well-priced wine.

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