Everything happens for a Riesling
October is one of my favorite months. It fully falls with cold mornings and nights, but warm days, perfect weather for warm drinks and comfort food. Although to be honest my favorite part of October is the annual Oktober Fest! Generally, when you think Oktober Fest, you think German brats, beer, and pretzels. Wine is usually not the first thing you would expect to drink, however, Germany has been cultivating gorgeous Rieslings since the 15th century, if not earlier. While Riesling will never fit into the “neutral white” category, it is a highly versatile wine that can be enjoyed with a wide variety of food and experiences.
Most early experiences with Riesling tend to leave the wine drinker with the mistaken idea that all Rieslings are sugary sweet and best suited to a dessert wine. Yes, Rieslings do have a sweetness to them, but like Champagne, there are varying levels. A dry Riesling is toned, never flabby, and will leave you with a bright, crisp, and full-bodied drinking experience. In Germany, dry wines labeled trocken have a residual sugar level of 9 grams per liter or less. The “grand cru” of German Rieslings are from wineries associated with the VDP (Verband Deutscher Qualitäts-und Prädikats-weingüter) and are identified as Grosses Gewächs or GG wines. They are always dry. The regions to look for German Rieslings are Mosel, Nahe, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, and Southerly Pfalz.
Typically New York is not the first region that springs to mind when thinking about wine, but here Riesling is king.
While other regions in the Old World produce award winning Rieslings, such as Alsace, and Austria, if you are looking for something a little more New World, there are plenty of excellent choices. In the US, Washington state, and New York state, particularly the Finger Lakes and Long Island regions, are best known for their Rieslings. While many of the Rieslings produced in Washington are off dry, there are many dry options to be found and at reasonable prices. Chateau St. Michelle in Washington is one of the world’s largest producers of Riesling and styles themselves as the favorite Riesling of US consumers. Typically New York is not the first region that springs to mind when thinking about wine, but here Riesling is king. In the Finger Lake region frigid winter temperatures and deposits of shale and slate in the soil make ideal growing conditions for classic examples of dry Riesling. Although Riesling in Long Island is far less common, several promising producers are changing that, such as Paumanok and Empire State.
If drinking wine from New York gives you hesitation, there is always New Zealand and Australia. Although be forewarned about New Zealand Rieslings, they tend to be sweet. This is due to the fact New Zealand wines have high acidity given the more southerly geographical location. The acidity is offset with residual sugar and there are few dry options. Australia however, traditionally offers dry Rieslings, particularly from the Clare and Eden Valleys. These regions offer crisp and youthful wines that pair especially well with oysters. If you aren’t a fan of oysters on the half shell (and really, why wouldn’t you be?!) Western Australia also offers exceptional dry Rieslings that you can pair with a wide variety of dishes.