Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Meet Riesling - The Cheerleader

When I think about Riesling, I’m reminded of a cheerleader. She’s amicable and pretty and lovable. People like having her around because she makes everyone happy. She’s a cutey with an easy smile and great posture. Usually she’s sweet and agreeable but in her serious, austere self, Riesling is the picture of balance and finesse.

As a member of the cheering squad and as the proprietor of her own bakery today, her bright, vivacious, congenial character gets her everywhere! She can light up a room all by herself. Even when dry, she’s racy and fun. But most know her sweet self, whether its just a spot of residual sugar that brings out all that tropical sunshine in her personality, or the nectary dream of a decadent dessert that makes your mouth go mmmmm!

When buying Riesling, you will definitely need a bit of guidance to determine how sweet your selection is. If the wine is sold in a slender 375ml bottle with straight sides and you spot any of the following words on the label: Ice Wine, Eiswein, Trockenbeerenauselese (Or any portion of this word), Auslese or Spätlese, you have a sweetie on your hands. The best of these should not be syrupy per se. They should be just short of unctuous with flavors of ripe tropical fruit and (this is key) enough acidity to help you clean some of that sugar up off your palate so you can enjoy another glass or a bite of pie.

The rest of the Rieslings are usually found in 750ml bottles that are tapered from bottom to top, and they can vary from very dry and minerally to medium sweet. In general, there is no simple way to know what you’re getting unless you know the style of the producer who made it. Although trocken is the German word for “dry” and halb-trocken means “half dry”, those terms are relative to each producer’s concepts of dry and sweet. Your best bet is to seek further guidance, either by reading a description of the wine if you’re shopping online or, if you are shopping in a physical store, read the back label and ask your retailer. Truth is if its riesling you want, and you get something that is sweeter or dryer than what you expected, you’re probably not going to be that disappointed - It’s Riesling, after all!

Germany is variety’s best known homeland – in fact, pretty much all of the German wine we have access to in the US is indeed Riesling. She is also a favorite for producers in the Alsace region of Eastern France (which is right by the German border and was once actually a part of Germany), as well as upstate New York’s Finger Lakes wine region and Canada’s Niagara Peninsula.

If you grew up in the tropics, like in the Caribbean, Hawai’i or South East Asia for example, and you were accustomed to eating pineapple, citrus fruits, lychee, mangoes and other tropical delights, you will LOVE Riesling. You will especially love Riesling with spicy foods. This wine acts as a wonderful counterpoint to curry, jerk and other peppery dishes – she can make the palate punishment of hot spices a much more enjoyable experience. She’s also a perfect partner for pork - think pernil, chops, tenderloin or hot sausage.

Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 5 Rieslings. You should definitely have a German Riesling, and since Riesling is made just about everywhere, have a local one too - New Yorkers and Canadians, you are in so much luck!. Also make sure you find a dry one to try, don’t just drink sweet all week. They’re lovely with a nice chill on them in general, so if you’re in the northern hemisphere, you will enjoy this summer wine research immensely. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #RieslingHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. We would love to keep up with what you are drinking!!

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