Why does Riesling have such a bad rep?

I have just tried a totally fantastic wine – a beautifully developed 2006 stunner and yours for the bargain price of £6.99.

The only trouble is that it’s a Riesling.

Why has this wine become such a difficult thing for us to get our heads around? The first response I tend to get when I start waxing lyrical about Riesling is “Oh, I don’t like sweet wine”. Fair enough (although you probably can like sweet wine in the right circumstances). The thing is though, Rieslings don’t have to be sweet. Many, like the Parcel Series Riesling 2006 that I’m drinking right now, can be dry and therefore much more attractive to the modern palate.

I think part of the problem is Germany. Poor old Germany. Until the late 1980s German wines were quite the thing. The exports to Great Britain were huge because we couldn’t get enough of their easy-drinking, sweet wines. At this time New World wines (those from Australia, New Zealand, Chile etc) hardly existed on the British market and so Rieslings came from Germany. You can see how the two were lumped into one. And Riesling, because it’s such a brilliant, clever grape, can produce wines in a range of styles, from the very dry to the very sweet. And because all we used to drink was the sweet ones we forgot about the dry ones altogether.

STOP!! Enough with the wine history lesson. The important thing to take away from this is that Riesling is good. It goes with an abundance of food (cue next post on pheasant and refer back to last one on Thai Green Curry) and comes in a range of styles. It ages well and can develop into something completely extraordinary. Ever heard anyone describe a wine as having a petrol character to it? Chances are they will be talking about Riesling. Please don’t let that put you off.

The one I’m drinking tonight is from the Eden Valley in Australia. It is golden yellow in colour, has a rich minerality to it, relatively full body and fantastic complexity and length; citrus notes are proceeded by marmalade (yes really) and a hint of honeyed maturity. As a 2006 it is already 6 years old and although still fresh is going to have a lot more going on than just ‘young, fresh wine’. At £6.99 on offer at the moment in Majestic this wine is a total BARGAIN!!

A couple of tips on buying Riesling: if you are buying a New World one (Australia, New Zealand and even Chile have some corkers) the majority are going to be dry – look at the back of the label for confirmation as it will almost certainly tell you there. There’s nothing wrong with sweeter styles but I’m trying to convert the masses here so let’s take it one step at a time. If you are buying German it becomes a lot more complicated (one thing the Germans do not make easy for the consumer is their wine labelling) – if you can, remember that Trocken means dry. You can also find some great Alsatian Rieslings (please see previous post).

This week seems to be Riesling revival week in my house. Join me won’t you…?