Over the past few weeks I have eaten at several new restaurants around the state and smiled as I saw the tried and true Riesling on each of the wine lists. Just as I have rallied readers to get on board with the rose revival, I think it is time to include Riesling in my aspirations. Riesling is one of the oldest white wine varietals but continues to live in the shadow of the ever-popular chardonnay, pinot grigio and well, almost any other white wine.
We all know Riesling had an image problem in America, with most styles being thought of as simple and sweet wine. But today things are changing dramatically, with more and more wineries refining the taste profiles that range from lusciously sweet to very dry.
Trying to decide which country produces the best Rieslings would spark an endless debate. There are excellent versions made around the world. The only demand this grape has on the vineyard is the need for a cool climate. Known as the classic regions for this grape, (and generally the best expressions) are France’s Alsace, Germany and, though rarely seen in our market, Austria. Other places offering terrific and generally under priced Rieslings are New York’s Finger Lakes, Washington state and Australia’s Claire Valley.
As I have written before, the key to buying great Riesling is paying attention to the label. Kabinett being the driest and Auslese the sweetest. Beerenauslese, Trockenbeereanauslese and Eiswein are always a dessert-style, lusciously sweet wine.
If you still need convincing, Riesling is an extremely food-friendly wine. It works well with the flavors of most foods, which is why we are seeing it more and more on the premium side of wine lists in restaurants around Arkansas. Its classic partners are dishes with creamy sauces, veal and the spiciness and sweetness of Asian food. We all have different tastes, but my only experiences with Riesling and a not so good pairing was with some Mediterranean flavors like olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and rare beef.
- 2011 Rudi Wiest Mosel River Riesling, Germany (about $15 retail)
- 2011 Snoqualmie Naked Riesling, Washington (about $13 retail)
- 2011 Hugel Alsace Riesling, France (about $28 retail)
- 2011 Trimbach Riesling, France (about $27 retail)