Riesling’s Much Deserved Comeback.

Share your thoughts here about this unique and complex wine.

Riesling (pronounced reez-ling) has a long and noble history, particularly in Germany, Austria, and France. It also has enjoyed popularity in the U.S. but fell out of favor as Chardonnay became the white wine of choice. There is a general perception of Riesling as a sweet wine. And, of course, such mass-market wines as Blue Nun tend to be sweet. But there always has been good dry and off-dry (meaning just a hint of sugar) Riesling and it is these drier styles that seem to be gaining fans. The acid in Riesling is what makes it naturally food-friendly, especially with fish, seafood, Asian foods, poultry, and cheese. For me, German Riesling still is the benchmark. So, my next column will be devoted solely to Germany. This column highlights fine Rieslings from elsewhere around the world.

In Alsace, dry Riesling always has dominated. The wines in my tasting, including three good introductory wines, showed the mineral character that is the hallmark of great Riesling.
• 2005 Hugel (very dry, $20)
• 2005 Marc Kreydenweiss “Au dessus de la loi Andlau” ($27)
• 2005 Schlumberger “Les Prices Abbes” ($17)
• Two biodynamically farmed wines from Marc Kreydenweiss, 2005 “La Dame Wiebelsberg” ($44) and 2005 “La Chateau Kastelberg” ($77), demonstrated the added aromatics, concentration and complexity that can come from Grand Cru vineyards.

Australia has shown a real affinity for Riesling.
• 2006 McWilliams “Hanwood Estate” South East Australia ($12)
• 2007 Penfolds “Thomas Hyland” Adelaide ($15)
• 2006 Wakefield Clare Valley ($17)
• 2006 Lalla Gully Tasmania ($22)

You may be surprised to read that Riesling was one of the first varieties grown in Washington and still is one of the state’s favorite wines.
• 2006 Stonecap Columbia Valley ($11)
• 2006 Pacific Rim Dry ($11)
• 2006 Milbrandt “Traditions” ($13)
• 2005 St. Laurent Columbia Valley ($15)
• 2006 Tsillan Cellars Columbia Valley Estate ($22)

Even California has a history of success with Riesling. Now, production is making a comeback statewide.
• 2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Estates (California, $9)
• 2006 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve (Monterey, $11)
• 2006 Gainey (Santa Ynez Valley, $13)
• 2007 Chateau St. Jean (Sonoma, $18)
• 2006 Trefethen Dry (Napa, $20)

Finally, you can even find good Riesling from unlikely places. Two surprising hits were a 2007 Cusino-Macul “Dona Isadora” ($15) from Chile and 2003 Chateau Bela ($15) from Slovakia (although, this was less a surprise when I realized it was made by famed German winemaker Egon Muller). Even places like Canada, Idaho and Oregon also produce worthy Rieslings. And don’t forget Colorado. I would argue that Riesling is the state’s best white wine, and one of the finest is made by the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.

About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.