Raise Your Glass to Riesling
by Barbara Philip MW
Of all the grape varieties in the world, Riesling makes the most diverse range of exciting wine. Stunning Rieslings can be sparkling, still and dry, still and sweet, or lusciously botrytis-affected.
At its best, Riesling reflects the terroir in which it was grown, gains incredible complexity with age and demonstrates an electric tension between fruit and acid on the palate. No country celebrates Riesling or succeeds in all of styles like Germany, where the still wines, in particular, capture the characteristics of the vineyards from which they come.
Riesling is at is most delicate in the northwest of Germany, where the light bodied, sweet and tangy wines of the Mosel region are an international classic. When they are young, the fruit is vibrant with crunchy apple, white flowers and citrus. As the wines age, they gain nuances including toast, lemon petrol and potpourri. In recent decades, a changing climate has meant riper grapes in the area and drier, more full-bodied wines are something for wine lovers to watch for.
Regions along the Rhein river (Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen and Pfalz) tend to produce Riesling with more stone fruit and less zippy citrus than their Mosel counterparts. Acidity is still high, though, and the balance between ripe delicious fruit and a firm palate means the wines can sing. The dry wines often need time to express themselves as they can be remarkably austere when young. Even at this point, however, you can imagine the brooding layers of fruit waiting to be coaxed out with time in the bottle. Your reward is some of the most complex wine on earth.
Of the Rhein regions, the Pfalz is singled out for its ability to ripen grapes (and other fruit) with a precision and generosity unique to its sunny climate. Even in their youth, the wines can be open and layered. Both sweet and dry versions reflect Riesling’s breadth of flavours and it is quite possible to find quince, pear, mineral, apricot, smoke, sweet herbs, apple blossom, candied orange zest all in the same glass. These wines also have the power to age and, incredibly, become even more complex.
The great thing about having a case of German Riesling is that you can enjoy a bottle now and revisit the wine to see how it progresses with age. Each wine is a new adventure with a guaranteed delicious outcome.
Order German Rieslings from these producers through July 12, 2021
Barbara Philip MW was the first Master of Wine in western Canada and is currently Category Manager for European Wines at BC Liquor Stores. With her husband Iain and their company, Barbariain Wine Consulting, Barb works as an international presenter, radio columnist and judge.