I still remember my entry-level wine class all those years ago, working through basic characteristics of key grapes.
I knew next to nothing, and felt overwhelmed by all the material: new terms, foreign words, spitting in public. I recall how my ears perked up when my instructor passionately began to tell us about Riesling. “Many wine lovers believe this is the greatest grape variety in the world, capable of extraordinary feats of vinous magic.” Zing. Like the first lick of Mosel Riesling on the tongue, I was struck.
This highly aromatic grape, dating back to 15th century Rhine Valley in Germany, is aptly capable of making a wide range of styles, from achingly crisp and bone dry, to unctuously sweet and everlasting, plus bright and lively sparkling. Quite a hardy grape, Riesling does best in poor soils that are well draining (ideally slate and sandy clay) and responds best to a long, slow ripening period. Unlike many whites, this grape is all about purity of fruit; the use of oak is rare, as it can muffle and overwhelm the delicate, floral, citrus aromatics and flavours. But Riesling’s most potent draw is its natural and piercingly high acid, providing the wine with tremendous aging potential and allowing it to nimbly balance out ridiculous levels of residual sugar on the palate. The highwire balancing act between razor acidity and ripe sugars is an addictive effort, both for the vintner and the consumer.
Here are our recently tasted Top 10 Riesling, from Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and Okanagan Valley.