(Riesling pronunciation: REEZ-ling; or REES-ling)
Riesling is one of the world’s most popular white grape varietals. Its origins trace back to the Rhine region of Germany where it was first planted in the medieval times. Today high quality Riesling is also grown with great success in U.S. regions as well as New Zealand, Australia and France.
Is Riesling a dry or sweet wine?
This is a variety that can be made in either a dry or sweet fashion. The Riesling wines we have featured in our wine clubs are always dry, not sweet. The dry versions showcase notes of green apple, citrus and peach that is crisp and refreshing, while the sweeter wines have tropical fruit, honey and spice flavors. For German Rieslings, there are actually 5 sweetness levels to differentiate from when ordering a bottle:
• Kabinett - dry to off-dry
• Spätlese - semi-sweet
• Auslese - sweeter
• Beerenauslese - very sweet
• Trockenbeerenauslese - super sweet
German Rislings have a history and stigma of being only sweet, which ultimately lead to vineyard designations. German Pradikat is the wine classification system where a single estate may decide to make upwards of a dozen different wines, based upon their sweetness level. However, since the Riesling varietal is naturally high in acidity, the sweetness is used to balance out the finished wine.
Dry styles are grown in Alsace, France, Washington State, New York’s Finger Lakes Region and South Australian Riesling from Clare and Eden Valleys. In fact, the Eden Valley of Australia has a long and rich history of growing the Riesling grape. It is the most important white grape of the region. These wines are very citrusy and have great intensity on the palate.
What foods does Riesling Pair With?
When taking the dry-sweetness levels into consideration, you should look to the foods that you will be eating with it. Faced with a substantial, sweet and acidic Riesling, the perfect food pairing is spicy foods. Think Indian and Asian dishes. Spices of cayenne pepper, ginger, clove, cinnamon, curry, allspice, Sichuan pepper, vinegar and teriyaki sauces are cut through by the sweetness and viscosity of the Riesling. Rich cheeses, crab, goat cheese and foie gras are fantastic picks as well.
Bright, citrusy and dry Rieslings are very similar to Sauvignon Blanc and are delicious with foods that have ‘vegetable’ flavors such as lime, tomatillo and jalapeño peppers. Serving this salsa with grilled fish brings out the freshness of the wine. Full-bodied dry Rieslings are best with earthy flavors like Halibut with a rich beurre, ginger and citrus vinaigrette. Grilled pork chops topped with sautéed mushrooms would be another great pairing.
How long can I keep a bottle of Riesling?
If you have a quality Riesling, you don’t have to be in a rush to drink it. The varietal ages very well in the bottle – it can age even better than many red wines. As it ages, it tends to get more elegant and sophisticated. This is due to the firm acid structure. A 20-or 30-year-old Riesling could just be hitting its prime - if stored correctly. Old Riesling loses the bright fruit of its youth but develops greater depth and complexity. But if you find yourself an age-worthy Riesling, hold on to it!
This is a wine that fell out of favor during the 1980’s, but has mounted an impressive resurgence as more complex offerings have come to market and wine enthusiasts have taken notice. Good Riesling is definitely a varietal to discover – you won’t be sorry!
A pronunciation for Riesling can also be: REECE-ling. We have featured dry Riesling in both our Gold Wine Club and our International Wine Club and it will definitely be featured in the future!
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