The other night, I ordered jambalaya and a glass of semi-dry riesling. The wine’s sharp acidity and honeyed tones made a wonderful counterpoint to the Cajun spices and it hit me:
I know what you’re thinking, but stay with me.
This poor grape suffers from a reputation as cloyingly sweet, thank you 1970s and Blue Nun.
Today’s modern wine drinker needs to rethink riesling. And, honestly, there are only two things you really need to know.
First, not all riesling is created equal.
Sure, you can still find sticky-sweet versions, which are largely at the lower end of the price spectrum. (The sweet riesling you really want to try is the more expensive dessert version, but that’s a post for another day.)
Thankfully, in this day and age, it is easier and easier to find the dry and off-dry styles that marry acidity and sugar to create a best-of-all-worlds wine that is crisp, refreshing and richly flavored.
Second, riesling is versatility central when it comes to wine. It can be sipped and savored on its own, but it can throw down with just about any meal you can come up with. Spicy Thai cuisine? Got it! Crispy salad? No problem. Saucy barbequed ribs? Easy-peasy.
So as you’re scanning the shelves some hot and sultry August afternoon, head over to the riesling section and pick up something new. Some suggestions:
Dr. L Riesling: This wine makes a beautiful introduction if you are a riesling newbie. From Germany’s Mosel region – one of the best spots in the world for the grape – this wine is fruity, minerally and just slightly sweet. For something more crisp and racy, look for the dry version. $12
Kung Fu Girl: From Washington state, this wine has notes of apple, lime, peach and apricot. It has lots of minerality and just a hint of sweetness. $12
Bonny Doon Vineyard The Heart Has Its Rieslings: The sweetness of this California riesling is perfectly balanced by its crisp acidity. Flavorwise, look for notes of plum, dark berry and a slight earthiness. $14
d’Arenberg Dry Dam Riesling: From Australia’s McLaren Vale region, this wine shows notes of jasmine, orange blossom, lemon and lime. The finish is dry and minerally. $15
Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling: This off-dry (i.e., slightly sweet) selection from Washington State is the quintessential American riesling. It will have notes of mineral and slate with orange and apple flavors. $18
Trimbach Riesling: From France’s Alsace region, this wine is vinified dry with a crisp minerality and bracing acidity. Look also for notes of peach, lemon, pineapple and flowers. $18
Hermann J Wiemer Dry Riesling: This estate was one of the pioneers in New York’s Finger Lakes region. This wine is known for its minerality, combined with flavors of white fruits and a vibrant texture. $20
Hugel & Fils Classic Riesling: Another perennial favorite from Alsace, this version is dry and elegant, with an understated sweetness. $20
Joh. Jos. Prum Riesling Kabinett: This German estate (also in Mosel) produces some of the most expensive riesling in the world. This version is an affordable splurge. It is wonderfully complex, balancing crisp acidity, racy minerality and bright fruit flavors. $24