Riesling is likely a grape your nerdy wine friend brings up at wine bars and gushes over, and you think to yourself - but why? That sickeningly sweet wine tastes like it was made to be poured over pancakes. That can’t possibly be the wine they’re referring to.
Well listen up guys - it is. Sort of.
Riesling has been given a bad name based on the explosive popularity in the 80s of a brand your dad will remember from his college years - Blue Nun. The popularity of this wine created a flood of followers sugaring the juice to follow in its flavor footsteps. So while riesling does have the propensity for producing sweetness, its wide spectrum of capabilities is what makes geeks go gaga for it.
Wait. There’s sugar in my wine? Is sugar a carb?
All wine has sugar but the level of sugar and how balanced it is by acid and alcohol make up the building blocks of how wine tastes. A common rule of thumb for sugar content is the warmer the climate and the more sunshine, the more sugar the grape produces similar to baking fruit in an oven. There are dozens of additional factors but let’s stay on topic, shall we?
You just said it has sugar. Why isn’t it always sweet?
Riesling not only has a propensity for sweetness, but also a propensity for bracing acidity and varying aromatics. This capability to produce acid is what balances the sugar and makes it taste less sweet on your palate. The aromatics on the other hand can range from the searing freshness of a Kabinett Riesling chock full of limes and slate to ultra rich pineapple and candied apricots like a Late-Harvest or dessert style Riesling.
Okay, so when am I ordering it?
What’s so great about this floral, fruity, sometimes sweet but always acidic, wine is its capability to pair with typically difficult foods. One of the best pairings is takeout Chinese or Thai with an off-dry (which means slightly sweet) Riesling from the Finger Lakes, NY or Germany. The fragrant spices of the food match the floral aromatics while the heat of the spices is tempered by the slight sweetness of the off-dry style.
Woof, I got lost there in a dream of soup dumplings and Spatlese. All of that is to say - give it another try like some of our favorites we recommended on the right.
Riesling Fun Facts:
- Chapitalization - literally dumping sugar into riesling. This is only done for very low quality German riesling.
- Trockenbeerenauslese - a super long name for a really fancy medium bodied to dessert style riesling. Let’s learn how to say it - trock-EN-bear-EN-aush-laiz-AH. Ja!