In my opinion there are fewer greater pleasures in life than drinking a chilled glass of Riesling. Whether it is an aged one from the Mosel, giving off notes of honey and petroleum(yes, that is correct!) or a young spicy one from Alsace, it is a wine that rarely ever disappoints. Sadly, however, the joys of this grape are often lost on people. Due to its German origins, it is often confused with Liebfraumilch and instantly dismissed as a sweet, cloying and flavourless wine. Whilst it is sometimes sweet, it is never cloying and rarely flavourless. Quite simply it is the best value white wine in the world, and let me tell you why.
Riesling buds late (saving it from winter frosts) and ripens early, meaning it can be grown in many cool climates. The perfect example of this is in the Mosel, where arguably the greatest Rieslings are grown, which is on the northernmost border of wine cultivation in Europe in Western Germany. However Riesling is grown in a wide variety of places, from Alsace to Australia, this is a grape that has popped up all over the world.
Due to its appearance in many locations it has meant a variety of styles of Riesling have grown up. The dominant style is that of a dry style. Characterised by intense flavours of lime and stone fruit as well as a taut acidity, these are excellent summer wines. Australia probably makes the driest examples, with the vineyards of Clare and Eden valleys being the prominent areas of Riesling production. However if you are after dry Riesling I would either recommend Austrian ones (in particular from the Wachau), or Alsace ones. In both of these the aromas are a little more perfumed than those of Australia. Producers in particular to look out for are FX Pichler (Austria) ,Trimbach (France) or Zind Humbrecht (France).
Riesling also makes both wonderful off dry and sweet wines. Ice wine, from Canada and Germany, is one of the worlds great dessert wines for example. These styles are just as rewarding as the dry ones. Especially as off dry and sweet styles have the ability to age and develop for long periods of time due to high levels of acidity and residual sugar. For me the flavours of aged Riesling are unbeatable, with the trademark smell of petrol being the most prized aroma. You may think that this is strange, but I can assure you once you have smelt it in a wine you will seek it out in others! If looking for off dry Riesling then the wines of Germany are the best place to start, look for words such as Halb-Trocken , Spatlese and Auslese. All of these words indicate that there is a certain level of residual sugar in the wine.
That is just a quick run through of a subject I could talk about for hours, however I am going to make one more point before I let you dive into the wonderful world of Riesling. It is exceptional value! Due to being unfashionable, £10-20 will buy exceptional Riesling. Zind Humbrecht Riesling is around £14 a bottle and this is from Grand Cru vineyards! Whilst Trimbach’s top cuvée, Fredereich Emile, is only £35. When you compare this with the top Chardonnay’s and Cabernet Sauvignon’s in the world it is an absolute bargain.
So, I implore you to go out and give Riesling a chance. I promise you, it is a risk you will be glad you took as after trying it, and you may even start to wonder how you ever survived without it!