We like to visit and learn about other wine shops to find out new and interesting ways to communicate to customers about wine. Often, we are inspired by great ideas. Sometimes, we learn about …. Interesting, off-the-beaten-path … ideas. There is a wine shop in Tribecca NYC that is owned by a very passionate wine fan. A few years ago, he went through a "Riesling phase." For an entire summer the only white wine he poured was Riesling. His investors, employees and customers were concerned, frustrated, worried and baffled. While it was not the best business move, everyone did learn a lot about Riesling. Great story, but don’t worry we are not doing that at the San Dimas Wine Shop. :)
But hearing that story inspired us to revisit and find some interesting tidbits to share about Riesling.
Riesling is a white grape variety originally from the Rhine region of Germany. 23% of grapes grown in Germany are Riesling. Riesling has been successfully introduced to Austria, the Alsace region of France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Finger Lakes region of New York, Washington State and California. Worldwide it is the 3rd most planted white wine grape.
Riesling is very influenced by its location. In cool weather regions like German and Austria, Riesling tends to exhibit green apple aromas, high acidity with high levels of residual sugar. These wines often surprise people because they taste the sweet residual sugar, but their mouth is watery from the high acidity. The measure of a quality cool region Riesling is in the complexity of the aroma and the degree that acidity balances out the residual sugar.
Side Note: Both acidity and sugar preserve wine. Sweet Riesling wines can be aged. 20 or even 200-year-old Rieslings are frequently on the market.
In warmer regions such as Alsace, the Finger Lakes, Washington State, and Australia Rieslings tend to be dry. Dry Rieslings has aromas of citrus, peach and flowers, crisp acidity and very little sweetness. If you enjoy un-oaked Chardonnay and/or non-grassy Sauvignon Blanc, you will enjoy a dry Riesling. The best dry Riesling have the most complex aromas and a hint of sweetness to off set the acidity.
As can be expected, with any grape planted as widely as Riesling there are some special attributes that vineyard managers and wine makers create. In New York, Canadian and Germany vineyard managers, allow the Riesling grapes to stay on the vine until freezing weather sets in. They harvest & press the frozen grapes, then remove the ice (water) for a concentrated sweet ice wine.
In vineyards where fog is common, the vineyard managers allow a fungus called Botrytis cinereal (a.k.a. Noble Rot) to infect the grapes. The fungus causes water loss in the grapes. What remains creates a very concentrated, rich, and sweet wine.
Riesling planting is on the rise. There is even new acreage in China. This is a wine to watch. Riesling is such a complex, region responsive and winemaker influenced variety, it will be fun to see what happens in the future.
We have a new Riesling in the shop from our friends at Smith-Story Wine Cellars (remember the Lord Sandwich Blend).
2016 SMITH STORY RIESLING $19.99
100% Riesling - Rheingau, Germany
From south-facing vineyards in the Johannisberg appellation (within the Rheingau region of Germany). Grown in loess & loamy soils. A gorgeous vineyard that is certified "Sustainable Fair 'N Green".
TASTING NOTES: Just a shade off-dry, mineral, herbal, and fruit character supported by crisp acidity and layered texture.
FOOD PAIRING: perfect for spicy foods. Think Indian, Thai etc.
600 cases produced
J. Robinson (ed) The Oxford Companion to Wine Third Edition, Oxford University Press 2006, pg. 746: "Vine varieties", ISBN 0-19-860990-6
Owen Bird, Rheingold - The German Wine Renaissance, Arima Publishing 2005, pp. 90-97 ISBN 978-1-84549-079-9
Oz Clarke, The Encyclopedia of Grapes Websters International Publishers 2001, pg. 195 ISBN 0-15-100714-4