Riesling comes in so many styles; there are sweet ones, dry ones, good ones and not-so-good ones. And I believe it is the differences in how Rieslings are made (the style) that really make it such a misunderstood grape varietal. Often when you suggest a Riesling, people either smile and accept, or frown and shake their heads with a big “No”. Now, I am not saying you aren’t entitled to your opinion: that Riesling they served you at the last wedding you attended at one of those banquet centres that serve cheap, unpalatable wine, wasn’t good- I agree! But neither was any of the wine that they served. So let’s not generalize on a grape varietal that can be truly delicious- crisp, floral, acidic and well balanced. Like any wine, there are well-made options, and, there are mass-produced, cheap options. And if its anything I have learned in my life- you get what you pay for. Here’s what you need to know about Riesling.
Where it is from...
The Riesling grape does well in cooler climates and is famously grown in Alsace in France, Germany, and Clare Valley in Australia. Not quite on the international map yet, but some great Riesling can also be found in Niagara, and the Finger Lakes, NY.
Not all Riesling is Sweet...
A common myth of Riesling is that it is all made in a sweet style. This is very untrue. The grape varietal itself is very floral and fragrant, meaning when you smell it, you’ll probably get notes of flowers and ripe fruit, which can give the illusion of sweetness. And, it does allow for the wine to be made in sweet styles. But there are many, many dry Rieslings out there that have very little residual sugar, making them crisp and refreshing on the palate with citrus, and floral and fragrant on the nose.
How to Give Riesling Another Chance...
(see how I assume you are willing to listen to me J)
Like any wine that I suggest trying, or giving a second chance to, find a food to eat with it and I can almost guarantee it will shift your perspective. Dry Rieslings tend to go really well with food that could use a squeeze of lime. Think grilled fish on the BBQ or shredded pork tacos. Medium bodied Riesling with a little residual sugar are great with spicy Asian food, think Thai or Indian curry.
How to discern if a Riesling is Sweet or Dry
Very often it can be difficult to determine if a Riesling will be on the sweet side or completely dry- this can especially be true for German Rieslings, as their labels can be confusing. Aside from checking the LCBO website (here in Ontario), a way to determine if the wine will be sweet is to take a look at the alcohol percentage on the bottle. If the alcohol percentage is over 11%, chances are the Riesling will be dry. If the alcohol percentage is 10% or lower, chances are there will be some sweetness to the wine. This has to do with the fermentation process and when the wine maker stops it. There really is no harm in trying an off-dry Riesling, they are delicious too!
Some Great Riesling Options for You to Try...
Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett 2015 (this is only 7% alcohol, so expect sweetness)
Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Riesling Grand Cru 2012 (Dry)
Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2014 (Off-Dry)
Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2016 (Dry)
Clare Valley, Australia
Have any Rieslings you love? Tell me about them!
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