Riesling. A divisive grape, to be sure. Most people either love it or hate it. For many of us in the United States, Riesling means syrupy sweet, low quality wine. Yet the greatest Rieslings are actually dry, with low residual sugar, and layers of complex flavors. Renowned wine expert Jancis Robinson calls Riesling “the wine world’s greatest underdog.” Of course, she is referring to dry Riesling, but even sweeter styles have their qualities, and are appealing to a vast segment of wine consumers who prefer sweet wines. My dad is one of them; a sweet Riesling is his favorite style of wine. Indeed, many wine experts assert that Riesling is the world’s greatest grape variety.
Riesling is a versatile grape, and can be made into sweet, dessert wines, or crafted into dry, refreshing dry wines, or anything in between. Many Rieslings produced in the U.S. are sweet, which leads to much of the confusion about the varietal. When all you know is one style, you assume all labels are that same style. Riesling originated in Germany, and the fact is, German producers did themselves, and the grape, no favors in churning out barrels of low-quality Riesling back in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Today, quality has improved, and there are many high quality Rieslings readily available to consumers.
I had the privilege of tasting one such German Riesling recently. As a member of NakedWines.com, I ordered a bottle of the Klein Riesling Trocken 2016. Admittedly, German wine labels are among the most confusing and confounding on the planet. Just remember this: “Trocken” means “DRY.” And dry this wine is! Winemaker Peter Klein is a rising star in the German winemaking scene. He is a 14th generation winemaker! (Read that again…fourteen generations!!) He was runner-up in Germany’s “Young Winemaker of the Year” competition this year. And his Riesling Trocken is all that!
Pale straw color. Aromas of pineapple and pear. On the palate, crisp acidity and flavors of pineapple, quince, pear, and white peach. Definitely fruit-forward, but not sweet. We started ice-box cold and let it warm as we drank it on the patio. As the wine warmed, enticing floral aromas emerged. We enjoyed this sans food, but it would be an excellent accompaniment to spicy Asian food or local, German cuisine.
If you have always assumed all Riesling is sweet, get your hands on a Trocken, chill it down a bit (but not too much) and get ready to experience the greatest grape in the world. If this Klein Riesling Trocken 2016 sounds like a good place to start (and it is) click here for a voucher worth $100 off your first NakedWines.com order. You’ll be glad you did.
- By Kent Reynolds
- Photo composition by Robyn Raphael