Riesling A Hot Pick For Cool Days

October 10, 2018 GMT

If I had to pick one type of white wine to drink for the rest of my life, riesling tops the list.

Sweet or dry, riesling shines. The grape is so versatile, it can be made as dessert wine but also as a sparkling wine. And as the temperature drops, off-dry riesling hits the spot.

One of the top regions in the world for riesling, which loves cooler climates, is the Finger Lakes of New York. Similarly situated states, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, also produce excellent rieslings.

From Europe, the top riesling regions are Germany and just across the border, in Alsace, France. German rieslings usually are thought of as being sweeter, while Alsatian rieslings tend to be drier.

Yet, Germany makes a lot of dry rieslings, too. It tends to export the sweet ones. Germany has a complex identification system (of course) for wines. The best way to anticipate the sweetness of German wines is by percent alcohol. The lower the alcohol, the sweeter the wine.

Pauly “Tres Naris” 2014 Riesling Trocken Mosel weighs in at 11.5 percent alcohol, which will come off as off-dry. The wine smells minerally with apricot character and some slight apple flavor. It seems to be missing a mid-palate, however. $10.

From a very reliable producer, Domaine Michel Fonne 2015 Riesling captures a subtle, lean style, with a citrus character with a hint of honey and cutting acidity, making for a great food wine. $15.

From a storied Finger Lakes riesling producer whose entire slate of wines is exceptional, Hermann J. Wiemer 2016 Semi-dry Riesling Finger Lakes reflects a riper style with generous peach and mango notes with just a hint of sweetness balanced with a tight finish. $18.

If you tour the Finger Lakes, you likely will find that it is difficult to produce a bad riesling there. As riesling enjoys cooler climates, I also have to mention Oregon as a spot for good rieslings, as well as Washington, the nation’s largest riesling producer, largely thanks to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Unlike some other white wines, riesling hold its integrity — and may even improve — after a few years. So you don’t have the same risk going for wines 4 or more years old. You may even end up pleasantly surprised.

GRADE: Exceptional ★★★★★, Above average ★★★★, Good ★★★, Below average ★★, Poor ★.

DAVID FALCHEK, executive director of the American Wine Society, reviews wines each week.