Summer wine – who is ready? One in high rotation for me on warm days, with outdoor dining on my mind, is riesling - one of the most versatile and expressive wines made. DNA analysis points to Germany as the area of origin for riesling; the first recorded mention of the grape dates to 1435. A hardy vine, it does well in cooler regions. Naturally high in acidity, expressive in aromatics, and ranging in sweetness from bone dry to dessert wine – it is versatile on the palate and in its pairing possibilities. Cooler climate expressions show more of the tart green fruit of lime and granny smith apple, whilst the regions with a warmer climate will show rich stone fruit bordering on tropical. Rieslings also have great ageing potential due to this high acidity, especially with bottlings showing more residual sugar. Although its home may be Germany, beautiful expressions are found in nearby Austria and Alsace, France. The most noteworthy New World areas for riesling include Clare Valley in Australia, as well as Washington and Oregon in the US.
German riesling does not conform to just one style. Although the wines range from nearly dry to very sweet, they tend to be lower alcohol and are perfect for a sunny afternoon picnic to pair with crudites, fruit, and spicy foods. Numerous German Producers bring compelling expressions of riesling – Dr. Loosen, JJ Prüm, and Dönnhoff are just a few to seek out. Austrian riesling, in general, tends to be fuller bodied than their German counterparts, sometimes showing a bit of spiciness from botrytis. Botrytis being the noble rot that impacts the grape by removing the water and essentially concentrating the flavors – wine made from these grapes show ginger and saffron notes. The fruit can lean towards a tropical expression with a long finish. Nigl, Knoll, Nikolaihof, and F X Pichler are wonderful producers. Alsace produces riesling that tends to be more floral, rounder in style and body. Trimbach, Kuentz-Bas, Josmeyer, and Weinbach are a few of the numerous producers of riesling in the Alsace region.
Searching for bone dry riesling? Look no further than Clare Valley in Australia - a classic region for this style. Refreshing notes of lime and granny smith apple skin, racy acidity, and richer body are hallmarks of rieslings from this area. Grossett is the bellwether of this style, whilst Jim Barry and Kilikanoon are two more fantastic producers. The next two New World regions tend to produce off-dry expressions. Riesling has found a happy home in Washington State; the long hours of sunlight and very cool evenings produce wines of rich fruit expression and style. In fact, Chateau Ste. Michelle produces the most Riesling in the world. Other bottles to look for are the unique joint projects between local producers and German winemakers - Long Shadows Poet’s Leap (a collaboration between Long Shadows and German winemaker, Armin Diel), and Eroica (named after Beethoven’s symphony) – it is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Ernie Loosen of Dr. Loosen. Both are nuanced and elevated expressions of Washington state riesling. Cooler climate Oregon also has some wonderful producers, one of which makes wine from grapes grown on vines that were snuck over from Alsace decades ago. These vines, commonly referred to as “suitcase clones”, make for a compelling story and wine. Hyland Estates makes this riesling from these very covertly snuck and planted vines – expressing rocky minerality, lime and stone fruit, and bright acidity. Other Oregon producers to look for are Brooks, Penner Ash, and Trisaetum.
Riesling – a wine of great expression and versatility. Crisp and lighter bottlings are perfect for late spring and early summer days. The dessert wines do pair so perfectly with summer fruit, I personally can’t wait until the summer berries are in season. The fuller bodied bottlings are wonderful for grilled veggies, fresh seafood, spicy food, pork, sausage, and so much more. My favorite pairing is sharing a bottle with great friends and conversation. Let me know what bottles you are enjoying!
Please reach out to Mariano if you would like him to source any of the wines for you. Cheers!