When it comes to Riesling, the wine market has a split personality. You have the people who enjoy sweet wines and love drinking sweet Riesling. Then, you have the people who hate sweet wine and, therefore, won’t drink Riesling. But if you are in-the-know… You can fall in love with dry but fruity, racy but voluptuous, bold but elegant, Riesling. The trick is standing in the aisle and figuring out which Riesling is which.
Albert Mann Riesling Cuvee Albert 2014. Vin D’Alsace. I bought a case of this wine un-tried and un-tasted. Most Alsatian Rieslings are on the dry side of the spectrum, so I felt comfortable with my purchase. Once, I opened it and took my first sip, I had this insane desire to hug the bottle to my chest and shout “Mine!!!!” However, since I am in the business of selling wine and always love to share my good deals (clothes, shoes and good lawn care, included), I instead started pouring this wine for everyone to try. It was universally enjoyed because this Alsatian Riesling has something for everyone.
The aromas of Albert Cuvee leap out of the glass and perform a pirouette. There is that first whiff of diesel gasoline that whirls with the fragrance of white and yellow flowers and candied ginger. People often call that smell Petrol, but I haven’t pumped enough European gas to know the difference. What I do know is that the aroma is iconic to several terroirs of Riesling, particularly when aged. Moving on to the first sip… This Riesling trumpets flavors of ripe, sweet lemon, lime, tart green apple skins, ginger. It coats the tongue with a little lanolin and then washes the coating away with bursting, citrus acidity like lemonade. Who doesn’t like lemonade? Particularly on a hot day! The mouth-watering flavors linger for a nice, long finish. Wow. I enjoyed just re-living the memory of it!! The alcohol by volume (ABV) is 12.5%… typical for Alsatian Rieslings. They have long, dry, beautiful summer days making gorgeously ripe grapes.
So, how do you capture this sublime moment? First off, you probably won’t want to look for this type of quality wine at your average grocery story. What you want to do vist an upscale local wine store or big box liquor store. Often, they will have a specific Riesling section.
Some wineries may include the term “Dry”, on their label. Dry can be a relative term as it is not legally defined. Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York is dry with bright flavors of lemon-lime, grapefruit and honey. Notice the 12.5% ABV.
Some Riesling labels will have a sweet to dry scale on the back label, which is a nice idea, because the average person hasn’t memorized the Kabinett, Spatlase, Auslase, Trockenbeerenauslese of German labeling and most Riesling regions have not come up with a wine labeling plan for sweetness levels. Dr. Loosen’s Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett one example of a Riesling showing a sweetness level scale. (I’ve included a few other examples, as well.) Dr. Loosen balances on the scale at Medium Sweet. The ABV is 7.5% The label also recommends this wine with spicy foods which is spot on for sweeter Rieslings. Nothing quenches the fire of hot and spicy Thai curry like a sweet to medium dry Riesling.
All the above noted ABV’s point to another tip for making a Dry/Sweet determination. Look at the alcohol on the label. A 12.5% ABV can indicate that all the sugar in the ripe grapes was converted to alcohol during fermentation, so there isn’t a lot of sweetness left in the juice. Therefore, wines with a higher ABV are usually dryer. A 7.5% ABV generally reflects that there is still sugar remaining in the wine that has not been converted to alcohol. Definitely sweeter. That is a general rule.
If you are new to Riesling, on a budget or just serving a bunch of your friends during a hot summer day, Clean Slate Riesling from Mosel,Germany (ABV 11.0%) is a fun starter wine from one of the lower shelves. $8-ish. Medium-dry and tasting of lime and stone fruit, this very inexpensive Riesling still shows some of its regional minerality. Not remotely as complex and gorgeous as the Albert Cuvee, but I’ve shared it with friends over some everyday Asian cuisine and on the patio in the summer –everyone smiled.
Another fine example is Famille Hugel Classic Riesling 2014 from Alsace. In the $20 range, this Riesling is dry and flavorful with lime, peaches and ginger. (ABV 12.7%) This wine is elegant and I would love it with some grilled white fish, seafood or even sashimi.
Just to keep it interesting, I have to mention this Ulrich Langguth Riesling Trocken 2014 Deutcher Seckt. A sparkling German Riesling from the Mosel region. It makes a nice aperitif . $13-ish in price. Easy to drink and delightfully dry (ABV 12.0%). Trocken means dry in German, so that helps. Sekt refers to the fact it is sparkling. Try this instead of Prosecco or Cava. Your guests will be excited to experience a different sparkling wine.
Well, this was fun!! Enjoy your day!