What Does a Riesling Wine Taste Like?
Generally, Riesling wines are very fruit forward, with flavors of apple, pear, and peach. The nose is highly floral, with high acidity, and a mouthwatering finish. Riesling wines, however, are highly affected by the soil they’re grown in, and as such, can vary greatly, which makes for challenging food pairings, unless you know what you’re looking for.
In an off-dry or sweet Riesling (most German or California Rieslings…although there are exceptions to the rule), you’ll find intense fruit flavors of pineapple and peach are prominent, with residual sugar content being a bit on the higher side.
Less sweet than a Moscato, however, off-dry Riesling wines will still pair very well with Indian dishes, and foods with spice-a no-no for tannic wines like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel, as tannins will pull out bitterness in spicy foods.
How To Tell How Sweet A Riesling Is (or Isn’t)
In Germany, where the variety is considered most important, Riesling wine labels indicate six different sweetness categories. According to the Wine & Spirits Education Trust or WSET, they are as follows:
Kabinett (dry to off-dry)
Spätlese (sweet, generally a late harvest)
Auslese (sweeter, made from extra ripe grapes)
Eiswine (a sweet icewine, made from frozen ripe grapes)
Beerenauslese (very sweet, using Noble Rot method and select berries)
Trockenbeerenauslese (intensely sweet, made using dried select berries and the Noble Rot method)
Winemakers in nearby Alsace, France, are known more for their dry Riesling wines, as has Washington state. German wine producers, however, have been making dry Rieslings for centuries, and a few select brands have finally made it into the States in a more visible way. Although there’s no perfect way to know if your Riesling will be bone dry, or fresh and juicy, here are a few more tips to finding that perfect bottle.
German Wine Terms
With German wines, look for the term the terms “dry” or “trocken“, as indicators. If a German wine says it is halbtrocken, that means it is generally considered to be “half-dry”, or off-dry. Feinherb Rieslings are a bit of an anomaly, as, although the German government allows the term on the bottle, it hasn’t given a specific designation to what it should mean from a residual sugar perspective. Most of the time, it is a safe assumption that feinherb Riesling wines are also halbtrocken, so don’t be surprised by a little sweetness in your glass.
Check The Alcohol Content
You can also check the level of residual sugar-easier online than on the bottle, but some manufacturers will print it on the label. Additionally, higher alcohol levels (around 12% and up) tend to be indicative of dry wines, so if a crisp, dry Riesling is what you’re seeking, you’re likely to get what you’re looking for.
In any case, if you think that Sauvignon Blanc makes for a great seafood pairing, pick up bottle of Riesling, and prepare to have your mind blown. Just a few of our favorite Rieslings this summer are as follows.
S.A. Prüm, Luminance Riesling, 2013, Mosel, Germany (SRP $14.99)*
Based in the Mosel region of Germany dating as far back as 1156, the Prüm family is one of Germany’s winemaking dynasties, carrying with it an international reputation for exquisite Rieslings in a range of styles.
Varietals: 100% Riesling
Color: Medium golden straw
Notes: Highly aromatic with white peach, lemon zest, and flinty minerality. Tropical fruits on the nose and palate, with a long, lingeringly crisp finish. Stainless steel barreling makes the grapes themselves shine through, showcasing food-friendly flavors that will pair well with a variety of dishes.
Pairing: Poached octopus or squid, grilled swordfish, sea scallops in a lemon beurre blanc, or a fresh fruit tart.
Recommendation: Drink now through 2018, 90 points (Crave Local)
Varietals: 100% Riesling
Color: Medium golden straw yellow
Notes: The name in German means “the cross of Mary Magdalene”, according to the winemaker, and is so named after a red sandstone cross found in the vineyard. The name was coined during the Middle Ages, as a dedication to rid the town of the plague, and has remained ever since. The soils are pure sandy loam, typical of the upper Rheingau region, however the addition of a quartzite element to the soil creates a higher than usual mineral quality.
Stainless steel aged, this German Riesling showcases lush, ripe flavors in a still, off-dry style. Herbaceous and fruity, the palate shows notes of white mulberry, honey apple, and citrus flower. Plump and round, with high minerality and a touch of salinity, Leitz’ Riesling Spätlese is fresh and crisp, with a touch of bright sweetness. Perfect for those looking for a lighter, less sweet Riesling wine.
Pairing: Apple cider braised pork chops, maple mustard glazed salmon, or peach pie.
Recommendation: Drink now through 2018, 91 points (Crave Local)
Carmel Single Vineyard Kayoumi Vineyard Riesling 2012, Galilee, Israel (SRP $25 | Kosher)
Varietals: 100% Riesling
Color: Pale straw yellow
Notes: Although Galilee might not be the first place you’d think of for Riesling wines, The Kayoumi Vineyard winery hails as far back as 1882 from none other than world renowned winemaker, Baron de Rothschild. Although perhaps an unusual varietal for the arid Israeli climate, this dry Riesling is quite drinkable, and pairs well with many summer dishes. Notes of white peach and lime zest are present, as well as typical minerality and a slight bitterness, with only a hint of sweetness midpalate.
Pairing: Swordfish on the grill, panko-crusted mahi with mango salsa, roasted pheasant, or Thai glazed chicken breast would pair nicely with this dry, kosher Riesling wine.
Recommendation: Drink now through 2017, 89 points (Crave Local)
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