If there’s one wine style and grape varietal which is often overlooked, it’s surely Riesling.
If there’s one wine style and grape varietal which is often overlooked, it’s surely Riesling. Like so many great things (I’m thinking of Bowie, the Stones and Aussie cuisine) it didn’t have the best time in the 80’s, and it suffered from an unfair reputation for being ‘too sweet’ which still lingers in certain quarters to this day.
However, Riesling is back with a vengeance and is making some seriously impressive waves both in Australia and much of the rest of the world. It has found its mojo, it’s proving to be a hit with the new wave of hip young wineries. Once discovered, enjoyed and explored, it’s sure to become a firm favourite.
Without further ado, here are nine reasons why Riesling should be on your vino radar.
It’s got some serious history behind it…
...and yet it’s always been open to evolving, changing and developing. It first cropped up in Roman occupied Germany around 100 BC, once all those pesky goths and barbarian hordes had been dealt with over a glass or two of the good stuff.
It remained a staple of the German wine scene to this day and reached its peak in the 19th century when the Rieslings of Rheingau were upheld as the world’s finest wines.
Since then, it has achieved great success in the New World, most notably in New York state (where the cold, consistent climate around Finger Lakes takes it to new heights) and in Australia, where a new generation of winemakers and their customers are falling madly in love with its brightness and refreshing qualities.
They’re fantastically light
Modern Riesling wines are all crisp acidity, light brightness and zingy, tart, fresh flavours. They’re matured in stainless steel, and as such avoid picking up those heavier, oaky characteristics that fell out of fashion and favour along with the Spice Girls.
Rieslings are, therefore, perfect sunny afternoon wines, especially while the temperatures still pretty warm. Chilled and enjoyed with friends, there are few wines finer.
...and also very varied
So bone-dry, minerally Rieslings are en vogue at the moment, but if that isn’t your thing, there’s almost certainly a Riesling out there that perfectly suits your preference. From fruity numbers to off-dry and semi-sweet examples, there really is something in this grape for everyone.
They’re an all-day wonder
You know how some wines kick you right in the head if you have a glass or two at lunchtime, and you’re asleep on the sofa by half past four? Rieslings are fairly well-renowned for being the antithesis of this.
Their lower alcohol content and high acidity make them the kind of wine you can sip at from lunch to dinner time, and still be fresh and ready for a night out with your mates.
Food pairing perfection
Generally speaking, acidic white wines are great for pairing with a wide range of foods. Add in the inherent elegance and subtleties present in a decent Riesling, and you have a wine which really does go with almost anything - especially those tricky to match with dishes.
Fancy some south-east Asian cuisine this autumn? Riesling will pair with it beautifully. Get cravings for sushi? Pizza? Fish ‘n’ chips? Spring salads? We may have just found your ideal wine.
You’ve probably heard wine experts, sommeliers and wine producers yakking on about ‘terroir’ in recent years - the idea that great wines are capable of expressing a sense of ‘time and place’ through their flavour, aroma and overall character.
If you’ve ever found yourself doubtful of this, or want to train your palate to appreciate it more, Riesling is a great place to start. It’s said to be one of the most expressive wines out there when it comes to communicating terroir in the glass, so close your eyes, take a sip, and see where it takes you.
They’re just right for this year’s big wine trend
I’m not totally sure how I feel about wine cocktails, but I agree with the majority of somms on this: if you’re going to chuck a few ice cubes, some fruit and a couple of shots of vodka into your wine, Riesling is probably the best one to do it with.
It has the refreshing quality and strength of character to stand up to the added ingredients and is going to see you through the end of the party season with plenty of flair.
Somms go crazy for them
If you like to listen to expert advice, be careful when bringing up this grape varietal in a restaurant or wine bar. Every somm I’ve ever known has been able to rave about Riesling for what seems like an entire evening.
The balance, the expression, the variation, the suitability for food pairing… if you’re serious about wine, it ticks just about every box there is, and there really is plenty to say.
It’s one of the few ageworthy white wines
Riesling ages well. Indeed, some of the most collectible white wines in the world are Rieslings, and they get hoarded away in cellars where their acidity can gradually soften, their fruit flavours can mellow, and a fascinating new character can begin to emerge.
Now that we have given you all the right reasons to love the comeback of this once-maligned grape varietal, let's get onto our favourite part.. expanding your taste profile and discovering new bottles that you will surely love!
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