Dry German Riesling: An Eternal Conundrum

Wine writers can be tireless, or perhaps tiresome, in recommending the virtues of perennially unloved wines.

Loire reds are one example of a category that receives little affection no matter how often writers tout their value, versatility and deliciousness. German rieslings are another.

People fear sweet rieslings, yet it seems to do little good reminding them that most rieslings consumed in Germany are dry, not sweet. (By the way, sweet rieslings, whether modestly so or lusciously honeyed, are thrilling in their knife-edge balance and refreshment.)

Riesling is among the most transparent of grapes, one of the best at expressing the distinctive character of vineyards in which the grapes are grown. That does not seem to be a convincing argument in its favor either.

I’m not sure what people have against rieslings, if anything. It may simply be that rieslings are destined to be a niche, with a small but ardent following. If so, so be it. I have no personal investment in making riesling popular. But great wines at relatively modest prices are always worth knowing about.

In any case, it’s a tenet of Wine School to re-examine our dislikes from time to time. So, if you are convinced that you do not care for riesling, now is the time to give it another try.

This month we are going to examine dry German rieslings from outside the Mosel, perhaps the most well-known German wine region. The three bottles I suggest are:

Brand Pfalz Riesling Trocken 2021, 12 percent (Vom Boden, Brooklyn, N.Y.) 1 liter, $18

Dreissigacker Rheinhessen Riesling Trocken 2021, 12 percent (Schatzi, Milan, N.Y.) $22

Georg Breuer Rheingau Estate Lorch 2020, 12 percent, (Skurnik Wines, New York) $35

As with most good German rieslings, these are all small estates, so they will not be found everywhere. But so much good German riesling is available that, if you cannot find these, good substitutes ought to be available.

How does one know if a German riesling is dry? Some will have the word “trocken” on the label, which means dry. But not all. Top quality wines might carry the phrase “grosses gewächs,” which indicates a dry riesling from the equivalent of a grand cru vineyard.

Some bottles, like the Breuer Lorch, carry no specific indication at all. What then? One way is to examine the alcohol level of the wine. Generally with German rieslings, if it’s at least 12 percent, it means enough of the grape sugar has been fermented into alcohol that the wine will taste dry.

Try these wines with shellfish or fish, particularly white-fleshed and freshwater fishes. They should also go well with smoked seafood, pork and cheeses and salads. You could drink these with Vietnamese or Thai foods, though a modestly sweet riesling might be even better.

As always, serve cool but not icy cold.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/28/dining/drinks/dry-german-riesling-wine.html