Ah Riesling, you need a PR campaign! Similar to the US ads that called pork "the other white meat" to un-ghetto-ize it, you need a campaign as the "other white wine" to get some much deserved props! You have fallen to the wayside in the minds of many a wine drinker and although sweet seekers know and love you, you get a horrible rap among dry wine lovers who have already made a foray into the world of wine.
Sad, but true.
There are a ton of amazing drier Rieslings but people don’t seem to know this. It’s neglected and cast aside for the safer Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
I'm an unabashed Riesling fan and advocate and I write about it all the time. I could make a very convincing argument that it's the finest white in the world and that it's more versatile than the ever-popular Chardonnay because it makes every type of wine -- dry, sweet (Chardonnay doesn't do sweet), and sparkling -- and it can age forever. It is so reflective of terroir (listen to the podcast for more on this) but it maintains a strong character everywhere it grows. It is almost always super aromatic -- like peaches, flowers, honey, and minerals -- but it's balanced by strong acidity no matter how much sugar the producers leave in the wine (which is why it's often sweet). Pay attention when you have it next time and you'll see that under your tongue waters and waters regardless of sweetness: the mark of acid.
Riesling needs cold climates to really thrive and no where does it do better than in Germany, its homeland. I'm lucky enough to be on the mailing list for the Wines of Germany so they send me some amazing stuff to try (full disclosure, although I'll be honest about what I think). I had a few bottles on hand to write about so I decided to do a bit of a taste test to see the differences between wines from the same vintage and of the same sweetness level from the two finest growing regions for Riesling – Rheingau and Mosel – were true to the common knowledge about them.
To reiterate from a previous post, which gives details on German wines that I won't go into here:
Although that's conventional wisdom, strangely, it appears that in the case of these wines, the identities flip-flopped. They were of slightly different price points, but that doesn’t account for what I discovered.
This issue will need further exploration…thank goodness I’m still on the Wines of Germany list so I can replicate the experiment and report back! Here are my "findings:"
The Wine: Selbach Riesling Kabinett, Fish Label
The Grape: 100% Riesling
Where it's from: Mosel, Germany
Color: A beautiful pale straw color with kind of a greenish brassy look to it (like a bleached blonde in a pool). There were some bubbles, probably from the addition of a little sulfur dioxide, a common practice in Germany to keep the wines fresh.
Smell: I felt like I had just stepped into an orchard of peaches and apples. This was fruity and delicious with a bit of honeysuckle scent too. I wanted to take a bite out of the glass – it smelled like juicy, ripe fruit. There was a very characteristic note of petrichor (my favorite esoteric word, which just means the smell of wet pavement after it rains). It had that petrol/gas smell that is so common in German Rieslings (sounds gross, smells good), which I adore.
Taste: This is definitely on the off-dry/slightly sweet side, so if you don’t like that beware. The wine was more like an apple pastry with honey on top than fresh fruit. It had almost a marshmallow, candied taste, which I think dulled the prickly acid sensation I love in Riesling. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t more minerally in flavor. But with food...
Pairing: Although alone, I wasn’t a fan, we paired this with sushi and it was AWESOME. This wine with soy sauce was a freaking dream. It mellowed the salt and made the sushi taste creamy and smoky. This was one of those times that the wine completely transformed the food. I couldn’t get enough of this pairing (nor could MC Ice who poured soy sauce on the brown rice and practically ate it with his hands, in between sips).
Drink or Down the Sink?: Drink, but only if you’re having Asian that has soy sauce. This wine was not what I’d expect from a Mosel Riesling, which tend to be subtle and complex. It was kind of a yawn on its own but because it came alive with food, I’m keeping it on the list.
This is a re-review of Schloss Reinhartshausen Old Vines Wine -- I've reviewed the '07.
I wish we had tried this the same night, but we broke it out the next night.
The Wine: Schloss Reinhartshausen Old Vines, Estate Bottled
The Grape: 100% Riesling
Where it's from: Rheingau, Germany
Color: Richer than the Selbach, this was like the color of those golden raisins your mom puts in your lunch bag when you’re a little kid, which you promptly chuck so as not to look like a dork because you don’t have the regular kind.
Smell: Not much has changed since the last time I smelled this wine – it’s so light in aroma for a
Riesling. I got a little bit of the gardenia smell and a touch of something like a waterfall but that was a real stretch. This is not an aromatic wine -- weird for Riesling.
Taste: Certainly the wine has more going on once you drink it, but it’s still kind of blah. Just like last time, I found that it had great acid. There were some light lime and peach notes but this time around, I thought the wine was much more noticeably sweet. It was clear to me that this was an off-dry wine, which I didn’t note last time. I don't mind a little sugar, but this seemed too sweet and not in harmony with the fruit and acid.
Pairing: I wish I’d had this with Asian, but I went Mediterranean and just had it with couscous, veggies, and herbed goat cheese. It was a nice, unoffensive complement but nothing special. Even though I didn’t get to try it with Asian, I don't think it would have been as good as the Selbach was. It just didn't have enough going on to hum in the way the Selbach did with food.
Drink or Down the Sink?: I really wasn’t impressed and it definitely fell short of the promise of a Rheingau wine, which I think should be bold and rich in flavor and smell. In comparison to the Mosel, I thought this fell short. I wouldn’t buy it for $22 – there are too many other great things out there!
I think this is an unusual outcome and that these wines kind of switched identities. It's not a case of vintage variation (same vintage) or different sweetness levels, it just must be that these producers are not making the expected -- cool but also a little disappointing for me.
I'm going to do more tasting and research and I'll report back on whether this is just an anomaly (which my hunch is that it is...). If you do any of your own taste testing, drop a note here or on Facebook and let me know how it turns out!