Wine Grape Cheat Sheets: Riesling
September 23, 2012 3 Comments
The Soundbyte: Much-maligned and misunderstood due to those overly sweet, bright blue and pink bottles resting on the bottom shelf at the supermarket, Riesling is actually considered to be among the leading white wine grapes in the world. Riesling produces some of the world’s finest, most complex, and long-lasting white wines. It is considered to be native to Germany, where its cultivation can be traced back thousands of years.
The Riesling grape is renowned for its ability to walk a tight rope of a balancing act in its combination of sugar and acid, resulting in wines that somehow manage to be both delicate and complex. As for the pronunciation of the name, you have to smile in order to sy it correctly – go look in the mirror!
Typical Attributes of a Riesling Based Wine:
- Riesling has the amazing ability to be both very fruity and very acidic at the same time.
- Riesling’s acidic backbone and complex, balanced flavors give it the ability to age.
- The world’s great Rieslings are grown in cool growing regions and made into dry white wines renowned for their bracing acidity; terms like steely, nervy, racy, tongue-splitting and precise come to mind as good ways to describe the potential acidity of a Riesling in all its glory.
- Despite my devotion to the dry Rieslings of the world, I must admit that many of the Rieslings on the shelf have a degree of residual sugar in them which may or may not be detectable due to the balancing acidity in the wine. The Germans have developed the label term “Classic” to indicate a wine with some residual sugar that is still perceived as dry to most palates. Genius.
- The German term “Halbtrocken” means “half-dry” and pertains to wines with between 9.0 and 1.8% residual sugar. Most American palates would describe these as “just slightly sweet”.
The term “Kabinett” indicates a low level of ripeness at harvest; the terms Auslese and Spätlese refer to grapes with a higher level of sugar at harvest; these wines may be dry or may have a small degree of residual sugar.
As for the dessert wines made from Riesling, they have their place among the best dessert wines in the world. The new world makes “Late Harvest” Rieslings “Botrytis-affected Riesling” and “Riesling Ice Wine”. The old world calls them Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and Eiswein.
Typical Aromas of a Riesling Based Wine:
Fruity: Peach, Dried Peaches, Apricot, Apple, Green Apple, Baked Apple, Pear, Orange, Orange Peel, Lime
Floral: Jasmine, Rose, Orchid, Juniper, Honey, Perfume, Wildflowers, Orange Blossom, Lime Blossom
Mineral: Flinty, Steely, Wet Stones, Chalk, Ozone (the scent of the air after a rainstorm)
Chemical: Petrol, Gasoline, Rubber Bands, Varnish, Wet Paint, Paint Remover
Late Harvest and Ice Wine Rieslings can take these aromas to the extreme…I’ve found that the lime aromas transform into a quick scent of pickle juice or green olives (sounds weird, but “in a good way”) and these wines can remind me of “dried peaches rubbed on a wet stone”. Just try it for yourself!
- Riesling is native to Germany and grown throughout Germany’s wine regions.
- The Alsace Region of France.
- California, Oregon, Washington State (Bubbly Prof really likes the Washington State Rieslings)
- New York State’s Finger Lake Region
- Canada, especially the Niagara Peninsula
- The cooler regions of Australia such as the Eden Valley and the Clare Valley
Food Affinities – Base Ingredients:
- Sushi…it’s the best match in town so I had to list it first. It’s crave-worthy.
- Seafood of all kinds
- Smoked Seafood – Smoked Salmon and Riesling would be my “last meal” request.
- Chicken, Poultry of any kind
- Ham, Pork, Prosciutto, Sausages
- Asian Flavors, Indian Flavors – Riesling loves the the salt, the spice, and even the heat.
Jalapeno Peppers, Wasabi – Bubbly Prof says any type of “green heat” is fabulous with Riesling.
Cilantro, Lemon Grass, Fresh herbs of any kind
Orange, Orange Zest, Lemon, Lime
Avocado, Corn, Leeks, Sweet Onions, Tomatoes, Sun-dried Tomatoes
Bacon, Pancetta, Green Olives, Capers
Ginger, Curry, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice, Soy Sauce, Salty condiments
The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas