A Reason for Riesling
Wine is complicated, right? How do you navigate the retail wine store or the restaurant wine list today? So much wine - so little time - has never been truer. Consider Riesling. Sommeliers love Riesling because it’s so versatile. There are a multitude of styles, and a multitude of regions that are growing and making Riesling wine from dry to sweet and everything in between. If you are not a working wine professional however, how do you keep up with Riesling Revolution and styles that you prefer? Where Riesling was once primarily associated with Germany and considered a sweet table wine, today this is not the case. There is a plethora of wineries around the globe producing high quality, complex and age worthy styles of Riesling in both the old and new world of wine.
The New World Riesling
In the new world, it’s brash to consider that Riesling could be as good as those found in Germany and France. While the comparison may be something professionals detect in blind tastings, styles from BC, Washington, Austria and Australia have been gaining recognition because of their taste profile and balance. In these regions, you’ll find the winemaker’s interpretation and expressions of dry to ice wine, and these are increasingly available in the market place. Most recently Decanter highlighted a few top Canadian Rieslings including BC’s own Synchromesh and Martin’s Lane. This takes nothing away from the old world classified styles from the Mosel and Rheingau in Germany or the fantastically dry, age-worthy expressions from Alsace in France. But it does demonstrate the changing tides and fortunes of Riesling are right here in our backyard. If you haven’t tasted a Riesling in a while, what are you waiting for?
Shopping for Riesling
How do you navigate the white wine world of Riesling with confidence? Below is one way to shop for Riesling - based on style. Below you’ll also find recommended producers below wine style. If you are a foodie, you will have no problem with finding the right pairing. If you prefer to sip wine instead of cocktails there are also options for you to consider.
Three Styles of Riesling
Can we classify Riesling into three styles? Let's try. You can find these styles in most retail wine shops or on restaurant wine lists.
Fruity & Off-dry
This is a beautiful style of balance and harmony. Riesling is a white wine that offers crisp, fresh acidity, primary fruit aromas of green fruit like apple, citrus like lemon juice and lime zest and stone fruit like peach, apricot and nectarine with notes of salty minerals and a hint of sweetness to balance out that raciness. It’s true some are sweeter than others so check the sweetness code or ask the wine consultant.
You may also consider Riesling from the Mosel, like Schloss (means castle) Reinhartshausen Kabinett Riesling, Okanagan Valley’s Wild Goose God’s Mountain and Synchromesh’s Four Shadows. These are approachable with complex aromas and flavours along with some sweetness to balance that racy acidity. These styles go well on their own, as well as with Thai and Indian cuisine that have some heat. A little less alcohol and a little more sweetness makes for a house favorite.
Racy & Dry
When it comes to racy and dry Alsace, Austria and Australia come to mind. This style is dry and offers some primary fruit aromas and flavours but also a mineral quality that you might recognize if you were licking rocks. It can be salty, or flinty with very precise structure and texture. Try Domaine Zind Humbrecht or Domaine Trimbach from Alsace, or look for Australian Pewsey Vale. In our own back yard, try Tantalus Old Vines Riesling (sadly sold out). It’s killer. Or to experience a little more age try Sperling Old Vines Riesling (these have a nice texture and complexity). Here dishes like scallops in a cream sauce, escargots in garlic butter and rich pates and cheeses are perfect pairings. In general you’ll find a little more alcohol and a little less sweetness but still a beautiful style of wine that deserves a rich, fanciful dish.
Mature & Balanced
For the most part, many of us have never had the pleasure of enjoying aged bottles of Riesling. When I say aged I mean 10 years old or older. If you have a collection or know someone who does, it is quite likely that a few bottles of Riesling will be lying on their sides for here is a wine that can age beautifully for decades. Private wine shops may be a good place to search for older bottles. Sometimes Riesling with age is overlooked yet offers great value and experience.
For aged styles, Germany is king. You can find Selbach Oster at Marquis Wine Cellars and a 2012 Spätlese for about $52 CDN. This would be a fantastic pairing with a real cheese fondue of Gruyère and Emmenthaler. Marquis also has a 2006 Auslese from Selbach Oster for $65. This wine is all about sweetness, richness and cutting acidity so pairing cheese, fruit, nuts and dessert is perfect. When Riesling ages, the color deepens, the flavours intensify and the raciness mellows just enough to bring a beautiful balance that can only come from bottle age. A little less alcohol depending on the region and a little more complexity and intensity can be found here as Riesling ages. This is a style you may want to hover over for a while to appreciate how time changes everything.
Riesling Wine Recommendation
Here is the list of recommended wines available on the BC Liquor website. Private stores like Marquis Wine Cellars and Swirl Wine Store, may have more styles available so ask your favorite wine person.
Fruity & Off Dry
Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl 2018 $16.99
Wild Goose Riesling God’s Mountain $24.99 |Swirl Wine Store
Toni Jost Bacharacher Riesling Kabinett Feinherb 2016 $25.97
St Urbans Hof Mosel Old Vines 2018 $26.99
Selbach Oster Zelting Himmelreich 2018 Riesling Kabinett $34.99
Synchromesh 2019 Storm Haven Riesling $46.00 |Marquis
JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich 2018 Riesling Kabinett $56.99
Dry & Racy
Pewsey Vale Eden Valley 2018 $21.99
Martin’s Lane Naramata Ranch Riesling 2016 $63.99 |Swirl Wine Store
Domaine Trimbach 2018 Riesling $33.99
Domaine Zind Humbrecht 2018 Riesling $31.97
Weingut Stadt Krems 2014 Ried Grillenparz Riesling $46.00 |Marquis
Domaine Zind Humbrecht 2017 Riesling Roche Granitique $60.78 |Marquis
Mature & Balanced
Hugel Estate Marnes Riesling 2015 $38.97
Hugel Jubilee Riesling 2009 $64.97
Selbach Oster 2012 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese $52.08 |Marquis
Selbach Oster 2006 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Auslese $69.47 |Marquis
Food Pairing Ideas
Riesling is very versatile. The common trait is of racy acidity and freshness.
When taking into consideration the sweetness dishes that suit sweetness include fresh fruit salad, crème caramel or crème brulee, to Crepes. Sweetness with acidity can support rich or spicy or both. Fondue is a classic as well as bratwurst and sauerkraut. Don’t forget spicy Thai dishes. It’s a perfect with fresh sushi, ceviche and gravalax.
Here is Julia Child’s Gravlax recipe. https://www.food.com/recipe/julia-childs-traditional-gravlax-119184