Riesling is one of the world’s noble grapes and probably its most versatile white wines. It is made in all sweetness levels – dry, off-dry and sweet – and stands up well as a pairing partner to many cheeses and foods, especially spicy Asian, Thai, and Mexican dishes.
As the summer rolls on and barbecue parties heat up, Riesling is often left by the wayside for other chilled whites. It shouldn’t be. Riesling is an embraceable, all-season wine that stimulates the senses with bright fruit and crisp minerality traits.
Riesling is also a good consumer wine. Many producers put a “sweetness meter” on the back label which demystifies whether the wine is dry, medium dry, medium sweet or sweet. Remember this key wine fact: The lower the alcohol level, the higher the sugar content and sweetness.
Here’s a simple pleasure to try. Buy a sharp, salty wedge of blue cheese, spread it on a plain cracker, and enjoy a glass of off-dry Riesling. In general, salty dishes, cheeses, ham, duck, seafood, fruit and salads offer a smorgasboard of delights with Riesling.
The best Rieslings are made in Germany, Alsace (France), Washington, New York and Australia. Here are several of my favorites for your consideration.
Domaine Schlumberger Grand Cru Saering 2014, Alsace, $38.99 – “Saering” means “Sea Ring” and denotes the prehistoric, ocean-covered Rhine River Valley. Today, vineyards hold the essence of marine deposits left behind which gives this Riesling a distinctive saline roundness. Schlumberger Grand Cru is golden colored with green tints, resplendent in apricot and lemon flavors, slightly creamy, and bone dry (13.5 alcohol). Try this with Market Basket’s miniature lobster rolls (two for $5.95) and say, “Nantucket, why?”
Hugel Classic Riesling, Alsace, $21.99 – A vivacious dry white that pairs well with goat cheese, seafood and ham. It’s precisely smooth and delicious.
Schloss Johnnisberger Riesling Gelblack Feinherb, Reingau, $25 – An off-dry German expression that delivers a weightier mouthfeel and interesting pear and lemon notes. Crisp, and clean, it’s a match for oven-roasted chicken dishes and salads.
Brooks Riesling, Oregon, $19.99 – From the Willamette Valley where Pinot Noir is king comes this gorgeous, court-crashing white featuring tropical fruit flavors and lemon meringue pie. It’s dry. Yes, volcanic terroir makes a difference. This was a hit at the recent “Pinot in the City-Boston” event.
Poet’s Leap Riesling, Washington, $20 – From Long Shadows Vintners, this racy, exotic, off-dry white is filled with ripe Columbia Valley fruit and freshness. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate rated it 92 points.
Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Washington, $11.99 – Ex-rock band promoter Charles Smith wanted to make a “kick-ass” dry wine to go with Asian food after watching actress Lucy Liu’s character in “Kill Bill.” He succeeded. This Riesling pops with lemon and lime zest.
Pacific Rim, Washington, $9.99 to $14.99 – The Pacific Rim Co. produces a broad range of 12 different, easy-drinking Rieslings. The “J” series three-pack ($32) is a sampler of dry, off-dry, and sweet wines.
Ravines Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, $18.99 – A top value from Seneca and Keuka Lake vineyards, it offers ripe apple and citrus on a crisp, vibrant frame. The single-vineyard White Springs ($25.99) and Argetsinger ($29.99) bottlings expand horizons on this wonderful wine region and grape.