Then: We’re looking again at a 2007 article from Wine Enthusiast entitled How Sweet It Isn’t that discusses many of these drier style rieslings. It discusses wines from Germany, Alsace, Austria, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and the US, with reviews of many of the top producers of the day. Many of the producers I recognized and I was impressed that it even discussed wines from regions like the Finger Lakes, which I feel like is still fighting to be recognized.
Now: The most interesting thing to me about this article is that it was written in 2007. What I mean is that in the past seven years, it doesn’t feel like much has changed. I just recently read a great article on the wine blog, Gargantuan Wine about the very same thing. On the surface, it seems that American wine drinkers might be slow to learn. There are lots of wine drinkers who still scoff at riesling as being a sweet wine with little relevance to their sophisticated palates. However, I would argue that the real problem is not the sweetness. And perhaps this is the reason for the slow learning curve. After all, America has proven it is a society obsessed with sugary things--Michael Bloomberg knows it, Coca-Cola knows it. So is it really sweet riesling that the wine community is running away from? I think the real problem is the quality and style of the wine.
One thing that’s important to keep straight is the difference between “fruity” and “sweet.” As Gargantuan points out, “in human experience, if one is tasting fruitiness, one is also NECESSARILY tasting sugar. The two are an inviolate pair. Ask yourself: when was the last time you tasted something fruity but not sweet?”
Good riesling, as with other varietals. should be balanced. If there’s sweetness to it, there’s needs to be a complementary amount of acidity. This acidity is something I love dearly about good riesling. It’s also what makes it a beautiful pairing with traditional foods like sausage and sauerkraut. However, it’s the sweetness that can make an equally interesting pairing with more exotic foods like sushi and pad thai. To find these more balanced rieslings, look for wines from Alsace, France or the Mosel region of Germany. There are also some incredible examples from Austria, though these are harder to come by. Labels can be a bit of a deterrent as they are, well, in another language. But don’t let that scare you; it’s not as frightening as you might think. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, I find that the more English there is on the bottle, the more likely it is that it’s a poor quality wine. Here are a few easy-to-find producers that will be a good start. You can expect to spend at least $15 per bottle, but it’ll be worth it:
- René Muré
- J.J. Prum
So, your homework is to go out and try a dry riesling, or at least a better quality riesling. And let’s hope that in another seven years we won’t be still reading about how riesling isn’t always sweet.