E Wine of the Week
The Reisling Revival
By Bruce Cochran
Great to be back after two and a half weeks on the road, and after two consecutive weeks without an eWine of the Week—the first time that’s happened in four years. Let’s resume our exploration of the world of wine. This month we’ll discuss regions and grapes from four very different countries, beginning this week with our own.
If you’re in Little Rock, I’m organizing a unique benefit food and wine event for KABF Community Radio, pairing the great barbeque of Whole Hog BBQ Café with wines that go with barbeque. You can expect some hearty red wines, paired with Whole Hog’s championship ribs, butts, briskets and chicken. The date is Tuesday, May 22, tickets are $25 at the door (cash or check), and seating is limited. Call KABF for reservations (501) 372-6119
Now that Ron Bunnell month has passed, I can tell you that the recommended wine for issue 201, his red Syrah/Mourvedre blend called “vif”, just received a 91 point rating in Wine Spectator. May 15 issue. The new bottling of “vif” (rhymes with “beef”) is on the way. Ron asked me to say hello to everyone in Arkansas, and to pass along his thanks for the great time he had here.
The Riesling Revival
It’s good to see the revival of the Riesling grape, one of the fastest growing categories of the U.S. wine market, albeit from a small base. A generation ago this was one of the most popular wines in America. Robert Mondavi Winery even grew it in Napa Valley.
Some people say that all Rieslings are sweet. That’s not true in the Alsace region of France, and even some German Rieslings are dry. They’re labeled “trocken,” which is the German word for “dry”. Still, the crisp, appley flavors of this superb, food-friendly wine are often best when the wine is nearly dry, as opposed to “bone dry.”
By the way, if you’re one of our new readers and aren’t exactly sure what the word “dry” means, it means not sweet. Think of coffee with no sugar as dry, one sugar as slightly sweet and two sugars as sweet.
What makes Riesling different is the crisp, tart fruit acids. They balance sugar and make it taste less sweet than it really is. I like the analogy of sweet tea tasting less sweet when you add lemon. It’s pretty much the same thing.
Riesling is originally and still probably at its best, in Germany, but its quality and newly-revived popularity are causing people to establish new vineyards in other areas. It does best in cooler areas, so you’re more likely to see it in New Zealand than in Australia, and in Washington State rather than in California. Not that California Riesling can’t be really good, but it just seems a little softer in acid. Most of my favorite California Rieslings have been really sweet dessert wines.
Washington State’s cold nights seem to be very good for their Rieslings. I remember when Chateau Ste. Michelle first became popular nationally, and it was the Riesling that first made their reputation (next was their merlot, another grape that benefits from the cold desert nights). I’ve been a fan of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling for two and a half decades, and it’s as good now as ever. Off-dry, balanced, crisp and appley, great with mild cheeses, Asian dishes, seafood or just for a glass of wine during warm weather. It’s also great for crowds that include new wine drinkers. This reliable winner retails in the $10-$15 dollar range, and is well worth it.
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