Erik Neilson on February 9, 2017 0 Comments There are few wines out there which garner as much miseducation and confusion as German Riesling. Some immediately associate Riesling with cloying sweetness, which is not an across the board characteristic in the slightest. Riesling can be one of the most beautiful wines imaginable, and examples throughout the style can range more dramatically than perhaps any other wine. If you’re unfamiliar with German Riesling, you’re missing out on one of the world’s most enjoyable and varied styles of wine. Below, you’ll find a primer on how to get the most out of enjoying German Riesling without having to spend hundreds of dollars on rare bottles. What is Riesling? Riesling is a white grape varietal that first originated in Germany’s Rhine region. Aromatic and flowery to the point of having perfume-like qualities, the grape is characterized by its high levels of acidity that lend to its immense versatility. While commonly thought of as a “sweet” wine, Riesling is actually capable of producing wines which are dry, semi-sweet and sparkling as well. The grape is highly expressive of the region it’s grown in, taking in the terroir as few others can. Since Riesling is usually not oaked and tends not to be blended with other grapes, it is considered by many to be Germany’s purest expression of white wine. Expansion Throughout the World While Riesling is by and large a German grape, its popularity led to plantings throughout the rest of the world over the years. Today, Riesling is considered to be the 20th most grown variety in the world at an impressive 120,000 acres worldwide. Significant plantings can be found in Austria, Italy, Slovakia, New Zealand, Australia and even in California and New York. Because of the grape’s ability to take on nuances of the soil in which it is grown, Rieslings from around the world can vary greatly from one another — especially in sweetness. Characteristic Flavors of German Riesling While it’s true that no two Rieslings taste identical to one another, there are a handful of characteristics that the wine is known for regardless of production area. In general, Rieslings tend to showcase high levels of minerality, which tends to give way to flavors of lime, lemon, melon and pineapple. Much of the balance between minerality and tropical flavors can be attributed to the dryness of the wine; drier Rieslings being more mineral-heavy, sweeter Rieslings leaning in the direction of tropicality. Because of the firm acidity found in most Rieslings, it’s possible to age finer varieties of the wine for many years — something not typical of most white wines. A Food Wine Like No Other There are countless wines that can pair nicely with food of all kinds, most of which tend to be on the dryer side. Food pairings are where Riesling shines, especially when you consider the wine’s clever balance of sugar and acid. A perfect fish wine, Riesling can also stand up nicely to roast pork or whole-roasted chicken. Where the wine truly shines, however, is in its ability to stand up to some of the world’s boldest cuisine — particularly Thai and Chinese. The spiciness of foods from these regions makes pairing them with wine quite challenging, yet Riesling showcases all of the qualities needed in a complement to Thai and Chinese cuisine. Bottles To Try Considering the variety that can be found between different examples of Riesling, it’s helpful to try examples of this wine that are found throughout the world as opposed to in just one region. Here are four specific Rieslings that are not only delicious, but relatively easy to come by. Eva Fricke Riesling One of Germany’s smaller, yet highly respectable wineries, Eva Fricke once worked for famed winemaker Johannes Lietz and is now releasing wines under her own label. Off-dry and loaded with notes of grapefruit and spice, Fricke’s Rieslings are perfect examples of what makes the grape so unique to itself. At approximately $20 for a bottle, it’s also approachable enough for most wine enthusiasts to try at least once. Kung Fu Girl Riesling Though its name may be silly and its label funky, Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington State is actually one of the best options available on the market for the price. Hovering around $14 a bottle, this Riesling showcases notes of citrus, green apple, peach and flowers with a long, semi-sweet finish. The wine doesn’t burst with residual sugar the way many cheaper Rieslings do, and its lively acidity makes it an ideal pairing for Indian cuisine. 14 Hands Riesling Don’t let the low price tag of only $10 scare you away from this excellent example of sweet Riesling. Clocking in at 30 grams of residual sugar per liter, 14 Hands’ take on the Riesling style does fall in line with the sweet wine so many people associate it with, but in a good way. Its strong acidity gives the wine a backbone that can stand up to the honey-like flavors that emanate from the glass, rich with notes of apricot and pear. Think of it as a low alcohol dessert wine that pairs beautifully with fruit dishes, and you’ll have an idea of what you’re getting into here. Hermann J. Wiemer Magdalena Vineyard Riesling Many people don’t realize that New York is actually one of the world’s top Riesling producers at the moment, and Hermann J. Wiemer’s wines are at the very top of the heap. Located in the Fingerlakes region of New York, Wiemer puts out a variety of Rieslings that are all different enough from one another to stand apart on their own as great achievements. The Magdalena Vineyard Riesling is particularly incredible, characteristic of guava and grapefruit flavors. It’s a bit more expensive at around $36 a bottle, but for special occasions, this is a Riesling that cannot be beat. If you thought Riesling was nothing more than another sweet wine to avoid, think again. Experiment with Rieslings from across the world to get a good sense of just how versatile this amazing grape is — there’s plenty to choose from!