“Why don’t more people drink Riesling?” asked a class member after we tasted a particularly yummy crisp and clean glass. I told her it had a lot to do with marketing… Yup, marketing.
Americans clamored for wine after GIs returned home from WWII. Longing for the rustic local wines they had enjoyed in Europe with food, an influx of bottles were imported from “across the pond”. In the following 20 years, Chianti in straw covered bottles; Mateus Rose and Blue Nun became the quaff of “sophisticated” drinkers.
Today, Italy has done a fabulous job rebranding Chianti as a juicy delicious cherry-berry, smoky-espresso tasting wine that’s red sauce and pizza perfect. As for Rose, if I had a nickel for the number of people who say to me, “You know, I really am starting to like Rose”, I would be writing this post from a deck chair somewhere in the sun…
But what happened to Riesling? Still needs a “marketing makeover”. There is sooooo much juicy Riesling goodness out there – but it’s SO hard to discover. When I offer up Riesling to my classes and friends, mostly what I hear as a starting question is “How sweet is it?” Okay, I get it. Riesling is a passion that passes most people by. (I’m still convinced that you haven’t had a wonderful bottle paired with killer food if you don’t like it:)
I echo what British wine writer Victoria Moore says about Riesling: “Riesling isn’t just my staple, it’s pretty much a basic food group for just about everyone I’ve ever met who works in the wine trade.” Those of us who are wine champions embrace the challenge of finding a good Riesling, not the least because it is just so darn food-friendly, let alone perfectly delicious. I love Riesling because its just plain different. Different in a crisp, clean, zingy way that pairs just so well with foods that I enjoy eating.
So, how can you find a good bottle? Well of course, you can take a trip with me to one of the places that yummy Rieslings is grown and made into wine. You could taste Rieslings that are SO luscious that a bottle shared with friends is never enough. ALPS TO ALSACE But if can’t go with me this time, here are some tips to finding a good bottle.
The Down and Dirty on Riesling:
Flavors and Aromas:
Fruit – Stone Fruit, Lime, Meyer Lemon, Tropical Fruit like Pineapple, Mangoes, Other Fruit like Pears
Other – Honey, New Tennis Ball Can, Spice, Citrus, Lanolin (Wool), Stone Fruit like Peaches and Apricots
Sweet or Dry – Both! All kinds of Rieslings are made to enjoy
Tannin – NO
Acidity – Medium High to High
Oak: Not often, sometimes
Today, Rieslings are grown all over the world. The grape is a robust variety that hails from Germany, (about half of German vineyards are planted with the grape), Australia, United States – Washington State, California, the Finger Lakes, France, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Northern Italy, South Africa, Eastern Europe and Luxembourg. Lots of places – don’t blame me if I missed one!
Some of the “Down Under” and “Kiwi” Rieslings I’ve tasted have been pure heaven. Tingling with acidity and clean citrus flavor. One to try that’s easy to find is Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Dry Riesling, full of tropical fruit flavor and a beautiful pair with spicy fare.
Alsatian Riesling couldn’t be more food friendly, and Trimbach Rieslings are on grocery store wine aisles, everywhere. Their entry-level wine is less than $20, and a stellar example of why you should love this noble grape. Pair it with Thai, Indian or Southwest food, and you’ll see what I mean! (If you are on the trip in May – you’ll be tasting with Jean Trimbach, me and the rest of our adventurers!) ALPS to ALSACE SPRING 2016
Along with Eroica Riesling, which I have given you lots of information about below, Kung Fu Girl Riesling is one of my all time favorites. Made by fun and genius winemaker Charles Smith in Washington State, it’s a bottle full of luscious flavors that are a match to many yummy seafood dishes that have a little zing.
And then there’s Germany. I’ve steered clear of the overwhelming issue of German wine naming in this article. Why? Because no matter how hard you try, it’s difficult to understand. The best graphic I have seen to explain it is by the extremely talented Madeline Puckette from Wine Folly. (Her website is really good, too!) The article associated with this graphic is also stellar. She makes the Auslese, Ortsweins and Grosses Gewaches a little easier to understand. Here’s the link to her article on Understanding German Riesling by the label
So when I pick a German wine to enjoy, I look for a good importer, (an importer is the person who chooses wines to bring to the United States and sell). Every bottle I’ve bought from rock-star importer Terry Theise has been delicious. Turn the bottle over and look at the back label – you’ll see the name of the importer there. If I am looking for a dry wine, I look for a couple of key words on the label: Trocken (means dry) or Kabinett (the driest of the “Pradikat” or quality labels).
I also love seeking out the VDPs of Germany – these are the highest echelons of Riesling in Germany – you should see the words “Qualitatswein” and Trocken on the label.
Maybe one day in the future, German wine labeling rules will be easier to follow, and we’ll be able to pick and choose knowledgeably. Until then, I’ll taste and share my favorites with you, (please share, too!) in a quest for the best. At least we can drink well, if we are enjoying Riesling!
This week’s FRIDAY FOUR wine pairing is Eroica Riesling. It’s the result of a fabulous winemaking collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Bob Bertheau and famed Mosel winemaker Ernst Loosen. It is the perfect expression of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s commitment to the marriage of Old World and New. Eroica is an elegant off-dry Washington Riesling that has blazed a trail for high-end American Riesling. Eroica delivers a unique combination of mandarin orange aromas characteristic of Washington state Rieslings, with the mineral, spiced apple and slate notes with lively, crisp acidity associated with German Riesling.
Don’t know what the FRIDAY FOUR is? Since I am a Chef, and I love pairing food and wine, every Friday I publish an ezine, (that’s geek speak for a newsletter). In it there is a better-for-you recipe, a wine pairing under $20 and two kitchen tips. That makes 4 things that you can easily enjoy – for free – from me to you! It’s my list and my list only. You’ll only get one email from me a week – on Friday with the FRIDAY FOUR!
You can SIGN UP for the FRIDAY FOUR HERE
Check out these websites for more scoop on February 2nd’s FRIDAY FOUR wine: