We all know Riesling, don't we? It's that sweet stuff that has a pretty good flavor but it's really the sweetness we remember. Wines that aren't sweet are remembered for other qualities usually having to do with their flavor profiles and therein lies the rub for Riesling. With its peach and melon flavors, Riesling wines with minimal residual sugar may still give an illusion of being sweeter than they are.
Sweet Rieslings are great wines, by the way. Some of the finest in the world. But lets put our cards on the table: If you like sweet wines, you like sugar. Sugar dominates in Riesling the same way oak does in a really oaky California Chardonnay. Now if you remove the oak or sugar you then appreciate what the wine grape, itself, brings to the table.
Before we move on to dry Rieslings though there is a balance in oaky/sweet wines that shouldn't be minimized. That balance is achieved by the acidity of the wine. If the oak influence in a wine is moderate then it takes on an earthy dimension that doesn't clobber you with that one heavy flavor. It's kind of like feeling the rhythm section of a band instead of having that dimension dominating the music. With wines with moderate sweetness (or oakiness), if that sweetness (or oakiness) is in balance with the wine's acidity, then it's kind of like honey and lemon in tea. They sort of cancel each other out and the result is rather nice.
Anyway, back to dry Riesling... What makes this wine so desirable is its aromatics and food-friendly acidity. Think light meats, seafood, and salads of all types. After going through the torrid summer just past, wouldn't a glass of this stuff have been a nice afternoon cocktail!
Wines comparable to dry Riesling include Albarino, Chenin Blanc, Torrontes and Loureiro but in all honesty they don't measure up to the complexity of good Riesling. Riesling may very well be the great white wine grape of the world. The finest Riesling comes from Germany where the grape originated but exceptional Riesling also can be found in New York and Canada, Austria and Alsace, and in South Australia. Wines from these locales may deliver more exotic flavors like jasmine, beeswax, apricot, lime, or petrol.
Two sources for this posting: Wine Folly and Lettie Teague (WSJ).
Please join us this Thursday the 26th when Dominique Chambon leads us in a tasting from his fine French wine portfolio. We go from 5 to 7pm. Dominique is both teacher and entertainer in our humble setting.