Acidity For Days
Today marks the yearly celebration of the 31 Days of German Riesling. I am feeling compelled to talk about my favorite and often misunderstood white wine, Riesling. Germany is the motherland of this grape. Mainly produced in southwest Germany, it thrives on its cool climate and soil. Riesling is grown all over the world but it is difficult to compete with a true German Riesling. The acidity is gum piercing and highly addictive. With notes of floral, honey, lemon, pear, apricot, flint and many more, Riesling is king.
A common misconception is that all Rieslings are sweet. This is due largely to the American palate. We like our wines sweet. A lot of the Champagne we get here in the states is sweeter than if we were to drink the same Champagne in Europe. Even the wines we produce are riper than their European counterparts. Think Napa Cab. With the sweet “Relax” Rieslings of the industry flooding the market, no wonder why a good majority of people assume all Rieslings are sweet. This is clearly not the case. German Rieslings have several different degrees of ripeness or sugar levels usually listed on the bottle. The lowest and most common is Kabinett followed by Spätlese and then Auslese. Generally speaking these wines are sweet to semi sweet. The are occasionally dry. The term “trocken” seen on German wine levels means the wine is dry. “Halbtrocken” means it is off dry or semi sweet. If you see the term Grosses Gewächs (great growth) this means it is dry and is of very high quality. I strongly recommend trying a GG to anyone that hasn’t had a dry German Riesling. A German Riesling paradigm shift will come in full force! Further down the line are Beerenauslese, Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese. These are the sweetest of the sweet and often have a honeyed taste and texture. This is just a quick overview of some of the main label descriptors. Sometimes it’s still hard to know if a Riesling is dry or sweet. A good indicator is if the alcohol level on the bottle is very low then the wine is most likely sweet.
What to eat with these wines? Riesling is very versatile in the wine and food pairing department. It works well with chicken, seafood, and even cured meats. Perfect for a picnic because it also works with a variety of cheeses from Comté to Gouda. One of my favorite pairings is spicy foods and a Riesling with a little sweetness. The sweet spicy acid components mesh perfectly well. Some of my favorite producers to look for are Kruger-Rumpf, Leitz, Dönnhoff, and Selbach-Oster. I’ve tasted their wines year after year and they always bring quality to the table. Quantity is not always the case as Dönnhoff especially can be hard to find. Your local wine bars and wine shops will be able to point you in the right direction. At my restaurant, Mike’s Wine Dive, we have embraced this month and our pouring 4 Rieslings by the glass. Two of them German: Leitz Dragonstone and Dönnhoff Kabinett. During this extremely hot month, I encourage you to get out there and drink some German Riesling. You won’t regret it!