Riesling, such a pretty and versatile grape however; often it's misunderstood.
It seems to fall into a category of love it or hate it. Most wine drinkers that do not like this varietal associate it with being ‘too sweet’. If you fall into this category, I will be preaching from the vineyard in hopes to change your mind and get you back into drinking this tasty wine that is versatile in food pairing and has so many personalities that there is sure to be a style that will appeal to every white wine drinker…
Sweet Riesling, absolutely you can find them, and quite easily if you are shopping in regions that have a warmer climate. For the Riesling grape to achieve ripeness that is considered to be sweet, one of two things needs to happen.
Option One, the sun needs to be constant through the growing season, and be able to reach the vines so the grapes are exposed to the sunlight. Regions that make warmer styles are commonly found in Sonoma or Napa. These regions start their growing season at an average temperature of 57 F and in peak growing season the temperature can reach highs of 88 F. These warmer temperatures are more consistent and drawn out through the growing season, allowing the grapes to ripen and have higher sugar levels that are rarely achieved in cooler climate growing regions. Cool climate regions in North America are often found in Oregon and Washington. These regions start their growing season at a cool 42 F, have a shorter time in temperatures above 80 F and have a fast decline back into cool temperatures. This will give the grapes structure and refreshing acidity that is hard to duplicate in a warmer climate.
Option Two is commonly practiced and associated with Germany. From our experience most consumers associate sweet-style Rieslings with this region; however close to two thirds of this regions wine is dry. Germany is one of the coolest growing regions in the world and it is actually difficult to achieve a level of grape ripeness to be considered sweet, and when it does happen they are found in vineyards that are prestigious and these grapes command a higher price. That being said, there are two categories in the hierarchy of German Riesling styles that is sweeter in style, but not due to the warmth of the sun. Deutscher Landwein or superior table wine and Deutcher Wein or table wine, are allowed to strengthen the wine to increase alcohol content and often the sweetness profile by a process called chaptalization. This is done by adding cane or beet sugar prior to the fermentation process. This is most commonly found in products such as Blue Nun. So if you are looking for a dryer style German wine, look for descriptions such as Kabinett or Spatlese, and then take a look at the alcohol content. The higher the ABV usually equals a lower sugar level on the palate since to make alcohol you need to use the sugar in the wine.
Warmer style Rieslings are perfect to compliment with spicier foods. The sugars help balance out the spiciness in foods and make the food appear to be less spicy. Dryer style Rieslings are great to pair with richer styles of foods such as savory pastries or sausage. The acidity in the wine helps to break down the fat and quench your palate.
If you are looking to reclaim your love of this grape we challenge you to try a variety of regions so you may discover the different characteristic that is unique to the terroir and trying them side by side makes not only for a fun project but for a great and memorable evening!
Check out the wines linked in this collection for a jump start on Rieslings you should try
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