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Tasting Riesling

Summer Calls For Riesling

Riesling is a wine that calls for warm days for sure. It is in it's best crisp and fruity and can range from somewhat dry to extraordinarily sweet. How can you tell the difference? Here in the New World, there's no way of telling except by trial and error. Darn, you have to taste a lot of wine. Sorry about that, not.

Riesling is high on acid and sugar and low on alcohol. It is usually a pale color, ranging from clear to a light wheat tone. It is great to clear the palette with and is floral and fruity. The most intriguing thing about this varietal though really is the range of flavors and characters this wine can embody. Not too many grapes range from a dry wine to sweet desert wine as easily as Riesling.

I have to profess that I am not historically a huge fan of Riesling. It's not that I don't care for white wines because my wine rack is filled with a variety of varietals (that's just fun to say). It is just that the Rieslings that I have tried have been too sweet for my taste. Then I started buying the imports. Riesling is best grown in cooler climates and the coldest wine growing regions in the world happen to be in Germany and Northern France, Alsace to be more specific. Their Rieslings have a beautiful crisp fruitiness that hit the spot for sitting poolside on a hot summer day. Paired perfectly with spicy Asian food, a personal favorite of mine, these imports have become a favorite go-to white for me. Plus the price points for a quality Riesling import are amazing! They can be remarkably inexpensive making it a non-guilty pleasure.

In the New World, fine Rieslings come from Washington State and even parts of New York State. For me though, it's the Old World that has my heart with this grape, perhaps because I can tell what I'm getting into by the bottle. Alsace in France has some beautiful Rieslings, as do 3 major regions in Germany, Mosel-Saar Rower, the Rheingau and the Rheinhessen.
There are 2 distinctions on the rating of the wine or winery. If the bottle has listed QbA, it means 'Quality by Countryside' and is a country wine. This is a step above a non-rated wine and means the grapes came from various vineyards and while it is a quality wine, it is not necessarily estate grown. QmP (Qualitatsweim mit Pradikat) means simply quality with pedigree. It is obviously a higher quality than QbA, and both are letters or phrases to look for when finding a good wine.

So my first trick is location (3 regions in Germany or Alsace are my favorites). My second trick is to check the quality on the German wines and my third and most important trick is to figure out how sweet or dry the wine is going to be. I don't like sweet wines but love the fruitiness that a bone dry Riesling can offer. On the label, Kabinett or Trocken means it's a dry wine. This is the one I will buy; in fact I will choose a QbA Kabinett over a QmP Spatlese any day. Spatlese means it is a select pick, is picked later and is slightly sweeter. Auslese is a desert quality wine. Don't buy this for drinking large quantities because you might get sick. Trockenbeerenauslese or TBA which is sweet and luxurious and a true treat, again in small portions.

I would like to encourage you to taste both New World and Old World Rieslings this month. Email us your results please or post your comments on our blog under Riesling at because we'd love to hear from you!

Happy tasting and we'll see you at!

Darcy & Stacy

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