To Riesling, With Respect

RieslingWhen it comes to the average American wine drinker, it seems that Riesling gets little or no respect. And it is difficult, given its appeal, to understand why.

At one end of the spectrum, you would think that novice wine drinkers, who usually veer toward sweeter wines, would lap this stuff up. But they don’t.

And at the other end, with so many wine professionals around the world declaring Riesling to be their white varietal of choice because of its classic style and its versatility, you would think that wine-savvy shoppers would take this information to heart and make Riesling a huge seller. But, by and large, they don’t.

The problem, it seems, is twofold. First and most unfortunate, Riesling is often thought to be a very cheap and basic wine, which occasionally it can be. But so can any other varietal you care to name. Secondly, the largest producer of Riesling is Germany and, again unfortunately, German wine labels can be very daunting to the uninitiated – often written in a forbidding Gothic font, and with long, difficult to pronounce vineyard names, where one single word can make the difference between dry and sweet. It’s enough to drive most people to Moscato or Pinot Grigio! Add to this the perception that Riesling is chiefly drunk by little old men in Tyrolese hats and lederhosen and you have a marketing nightmare.

And nothing could be further from the truth! Riesling is one of the classic and most noble wines in the world, with a beautifully forged balance between fruit and acidity. It is a wine of great diversity, running the gamut from bone dry to lusciously sweet and everything in between. And because it is so versatile it stands to reason that it can pair beautifully with so many different foods – fish and shellfish, poultry, ham, cheese, fruit, picnic lunches, Asian and spicy cuisine. If you have any doubts about this, try an off-dry Riesling the next time you have lobster tail!

A good Riesling can age longer than many other white wines, too – sometimes for several decades. And when you compare it in price with the great white wines of Bordeaux or Burgundy, a quality Riesling can come relatively inexpensive.

Riesling Although Germany is the traditional heart and home of Riesling, there are also world class Rieslings from Alsace, from Washington State and California, from Austria, New Zealand and northern Italy. On a recent trip down under I was surprised to find the Aussies were absolutely gaga about their own dry Riesling – and eminently delicious it was too!

If you doubt the veracity of all I have said – try some. Pick up a good bottle of Riesling, pour a glass for yourself and your friends and make a toast – to Riesling, with respect. I can guarantee that if you’re like me that respect will soon turn into love.

Bill Stobbs, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine supervisor

Follow me on Twitter @abcwinebills

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