It’s Riesling for the summer!

Variety of flavors and styles make it a great selection

June 21st is right around the corner. Summertime is almost here. So the big question is - Which wine to drink for the summertime?  There are so many good wines in which to imbibe during the summer months, but the one that stands out for me is Riesling. With the many different flavors and styles of this terroir-driven wine, it is easy to find one that will please your palate during these warm and sunny days.  

Riesling can be dry or sweet, it can be full-bodied or light and crisp. It is one of the most versatile grapes in the world. This is what makes it so great, Riesling can be a great refresher all on its own or pair well with fish, chicken, pork, desserts, and is one of the only wines that goes great with spicy dishes.  

Riesling originates from the Rhine region of Germany, however, it is planted all around the globe. Other areas Riesling can be found are France, Austria, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.  

What makes Riesling so versatile is the fact that the grape can be picked at all levels of ripeness to determine its level of sweetness and the flavor it will best showcase. Less ripe grapes will highlight more citrus flavors. Medium ripe grapes will show more tree fruit flavors, such as apple or pear and very ripe grapes will portray tropical fruit flavors, like pineapple and apricot. The grapes can even be picked after they begin to develop noble rot, and some even when they freeze. All Rieslings have a high acidity level, which makes the sweet ones well balanced and the dry ones crisp and refreshing. The wine will also show different levels of minerality, depending on the soil in which the grapes are grown.    

Now, let’s learn how to find the Riesling that will best suite your taste. Let’s start with the German classification system. Kabinett, is the meaning wine of a reserve quality that should be kept in the vintner’s cabinet for aging. These wines are usually off-dry or semi-sweet, but can be dry if designated as such. Spatlese, is the meaning of late harvest.  These wines are typically off-dry, but slightly sweeter than Kabinett wines. Auslese is the meaning of select harvest. These wines are mostly sweet, but can be made into dry, full bodied wines, as well as sweet dessert wines. This is the broadest category of designation.  

Beerenauslese is the meaning of select berry harvest. These are sweet dessert style wines whose grapes have developed noble rot. Eiswein, or ice wine, come from grapes that have been naturally frozen on the vine and make extremely concentrated dessert wines.

Finally, we have Trockenbeerenauslese, meaning select dry berry harvest. These are wines made from berries that have dried on the vine, often affected by noble rot, that are very sweet and rich.

Wow, that’s a lot to digest.

So Rieslings from Germany range from dry to sweet. You just need to pay attention to the label or ask your local wine professional to make sure you get what you’re looking for.  

French Rieslings are grown in Alsace. They are usually dry and full-bodied with refreshing acidity due to the way that they are produced. They can be drunk young, but are known to age exceptionally well. The benefit of drinking an aged Riesling from Alsace is that it typically opens up after three years and becomes softer and fruitier.  

The Rieslings from the south Pacific, Australia and New Zealand typically showcase citrus flavors with a smooth balance of acidity. They are lighter and fresher with a touch of oiliness. The flavor is often compared to lemon marmalade.

Austrian Riesling is generally dry and crisp with wonderful minerality. It is full-bodied and coats the palate, leading into a long finish with hints of white pepper. It has a higher alcohol content, typically around 13 percent. The Rieslings from Austria are unique and delightful for those looking for something a little different.  

The Rieslings from the United States are very similar to those from Germany, it just depends on where they are from.  The most popular regions are New York, which tends to make light-bodied mellow flavored, refreshing wines that range from dry to sweet.  California produces soft and full wines with diverse flavors. Washington State makes crisp light wines that are easy to drink and range from sweet to dry, and finally Michigan excels in producing ice-style wines.

Now that we know all of the different styles of Riesling, head on out to your local wine shop and pick up a bottle or two of the best one that suits your taste and welcome in the summer of Riesling.  

Happy drinking from and as always, feel free to contact me with all your wine questions. I am always happy to help.   

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