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18 May 2017 | Randy Kemner

The Queen of White Wines

When was the last time you enjoyed a stellar glass of Riesling?  I don't mean merely pleasant, or inoffensive, or wet.  I mean, spectacular.

For a lot of you, never.

German Riesling has been out of fashion in the wine world since the 1970s for a myriad of reasons, some of them cultural, some of them because so many lame versions on the market have turned off consumers, some because consumers don't know whether a given wine is sweet or dry, and some of them simply due to a lack of contact with the best of them.

But a new generation of sommeliers has now discovered what we've been telling you all along.  German Riesling, that most delicate of wines, is one of the most versatile food wines on the planet.  Its inviting fruit, whether dry, medium dry, or lightly sweet offers a wonderful complement to American dishes like ham, and pork chops, European dishes like fish in cream sauce, duck and poultry, sauerkraut and sausages, and hard-to-pair lightly spicy Asian dishes from China, Japan, Thailand and India.  Try doing that with Chardonnay.


What's more, if you open yourselves to its pleasures, it's just about the most delicious wine there is.  Think of it as fruit in the glass, not booze in your glass.  At a lower alcohol, you can enjoy more of it more often, particularly at lunch when you want to avoid the afternoon slump you get after regular wine. 


Mosel Riesling: Long Live the Queen!

Since the 1970s, Rieslings from Germany's Mosel Valley have been thrust to the forefront of German winemaking, largely because the wines produced there are more delicate and refined than any other region in the country.  More Mozart than Wagner.  Wines there are made a little sweeter, even though there has been a lot of pressure in recent years to ferment them to dryness.  That would be a shame, because Riesling needs at least a little sweetness to offset its often raging acidity.

The region itself was until recently called the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, encompassing vineyard land adjacent to the winding, twisting, turning Mosel River between Saarburg-Trier and Koblenz.  The region is cool; fewer wine regions in the world have a more northerly latitude.  That is great for Riesling, because its natural acidity perfectly balances the delicate sweetness of the wine at all ripeness levels.  Genius, really.

Once overshadowed by the more masculine wines of the Rheingau, the more delicate wines of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, now called simply Mosel, have dominated German winemaking during the last quarter century.

The wines shimmer in the glass, the aromas more floral than not, and have a purity and wholesomeness that is impossible not to be charmed by, if one is receptive. Although they are usually grown in slatey soils, they often have an amazing minerality with a fresh, tangy aftertaste.  I'm particularly choosy when it comes to German Riesling, and I want to fall in love with a wine, not merely understand it.


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