As interest in wine in North America continues to grow, so does the volume of sheer mis-information on the subject. It seems the number of myths related to the world of wine is accumulating faster than Mel Gibsons career ending quotables. In order to clear the air and help to right some of these injustices I have decided to write a series of blogs debunking some of the myths I find most upsetting.
Myth #1: Riesling Sucks!
Despite the fact that the Riesling grape is capable of producing some of the worlds greatest white wines, it’s gotten a bad rap in popular wine culture. A little piece of me curls up and dies every time I hear someone proclaim that they hate Riesling, generally citing the fact that it is “too sweet”.
The truth is, most of these Riesling bashers have never tasted a good Riesling. Perhaps these misguided souls had a negative experience involving a bottle of Blue Nun or Black Tower stolen from a parents cupboard on prom night that ended in a pile of puke and a raging headache the next morning. Whatever the case I can assure you that all Riesling doesn’t suck. Lets get behind the shroud of mystery and uncover some facts.
Fact #1 – Not all Riesling is Sweet
Many people assume that any Riesling they find on a shelf or on a wine list will be sweet. In truth Riesling is produced all over the world in a huge range of styles. From the bone dry, mineral driven Rieslings of Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, to the often rich and opulent Rieslings of Alsace, to the classic off-dry Rieslings from Germany’s Mosel Valley there is a Riesling for any occasion and taste!
Fact #2 – The Germans don’t think about sweetness…they think about balance
While most Riesling haters are busy fussing about the fact that they don’t like “sweet” wines, the undisputed kings of Riesling are busy thinking about balance. To the Germans it’s not just about sugar, but the interaction between sugar and acidity. Acidity is the Batman to sugars Robin, the Paul Shafer to Sugars David Letterman, the transvestite prostitute to sugars Eddie Murphy.
Acidity is the skeleton of a good wine and provides freshness and structure. A good way for most people to relate acidity is the mouth-watering sensation of biting into a granny smith apple. A wine that contains sugar without acidity can come across syrupy and overbearing. The beautiful acidity found in a great Riesling gives it the ability to be both slightly sweet and refreshing at the same time.
Fact #3 – Riesling is an amazing food wine
The combination of low alcohol and a touch of sweetness in a classic off-dry Riesling make it the perfect companion to the spice found in many Asian influenced dishes such as Thai and Indian curries. A fully sweet Riesling can be a great match with blue cheese, fois gras or flambeyed pears. On the dry side, a mineral driven Riesling can be the perfect match for Oysters and shell-fish, while a rich and opulent Riesling (such as those found in the Alsace region of France) can accompany pork tenderloin, roasted goose or Peking duck.
Wether you love it or hate it, Rieslings affinity for a whole range of foods is undeniable.
Fact #4 – Riesling is relatively cheap!
Many of my favourite value wines happen to be Rieslings! My fridge is often stocked with delicious examples priced at well under $20.00. If you’re willing to splurge, the market is rife with wines from some of the most famed and well established vineyards in Germany for under $40.00! Find some examples at the end of this rant blog.
The Final Round
There is an almost comical contradiction occurring in the world of wine as we speak. If you were to poll 100 random people with a casual interest in wine, it is likely that an extremely small percentage of them would respond with Riesling as one of their favourite grape varieties. If, on the other hand, you polled 100 of the world’s top Sommeliers and wine professionals, I would be willing to bet that almost all of them list Riesling as one of their favourite varietals.
I’m not saying you have to love Riesling…just give it a fair chance! Stop by your local wine store and grab a couple decent quality Rieslings from different regions and with varying styles. Next time you’re at your favourite restaurant ask the Sommelier for a Riesling and food pairing. Grab some Indian or Thai take-out and crack a bottle of great value Riesling from the list below. If you’ve given it a fair shot and you still don’t like Riesling, more power to you. Just don’t be that person slagging off something you’ve never tried…thats called being a wanker.
Dr. Loosen Riesling “Dr.L” – Mosel, Germany ($17)
Gruen Rheingau Riesling – Rheingau, Germany ($16)
Charles Smith “Kung-Fu Girl” Riesling – Columbia Valley, Washington ($16)
Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling – Eden Valley, Australia ($21)
Paul Zinck Riesling – Alsace, France ($19)
Rabl “Steinhaus” Riesling – Kamptal, Austria ($20)
Tawse “Misek Vineyard” Riesling – Niagary, Ontario ($28)
That’s just a start. Get out and explore…you never know what you might find!