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Riesling: A Taste Held in Balance

Posted on: August 29th, 2011 by Tom Peiffer No Comments

When it comes to Rieslings, most people think one thing, sweet. They remind of after-dinner wines quaffed along with dessert or sweet seasonal wines served in little glasses with Sorbet between dinner courses. But truly good Rieslings have a lot more to say. Think about it, it has been a favorite banquet wine in Germany for centuries. So there must be more to it.

And indeed there is. There are many who believe that Riesling is the ultimate food pairing wine. This is because it mimics one of our favorite combinations in recipes, sweet and sour. This can be likened to what happens with a good bartender whips up the perfect Margarita. If it’s a little too sweet, add more lime. If it’s a little too sour, add more orange Curaçao. Verify and serve.

This is exactly what happens when a top vintner produces a Riesling. The Riesling grape already has a high concentration of cool climate enhanced natural acid and some sugar. During fermentation, the sugar is converted to alcohol and the taste starts to sour. Stop the fermentation at just the right time, before all the sugar is gone, and you’ve got a very interesting naturally-produced sweet and sour drink.

Because of this acid/sugar balance, many Rieslings produce the “Margarita effect” making them pair well with just about any food that you would enjoy with Margaritas. This includes pairing well with spicy dishes, including hot Chili Relleno! Just why more Mexican and Thai restaurants don’t have several Rieslings on their drink menus remains a mystery.

Although it is true that many prized Rieslings are produced in Germany and the Alsace region in France, there are many available right here in the US that are following the delicate sweet and sour balancing tradition.

One of the most well-known American producers is Chateau Ste. Michelle. They have done countless cooperative efforts with German wineries and it shows in the quality of their wine. This even includes affordably-priced selections like their entry level 2010 Riesling. It is available at Fry’s for under $10. If you want a one that moves toward the “extreme”, shop around for their Eroica. Its German influence is evident all through and the critics agree.

Serve well chilled after an hour in the fridge (45-50 degrees), enjoy with seafood then try it with some hot Tamales! The sweet component does interesting things on the palate with the heat of the chilis.

Article by Tom Peiffer, Phoenix Wine Shopping Examiner at Examiner.com

View more of Tom’s articles on Examiner.com by visiting his writer’s page.

About the Author - Tom Peiffer

Tom has been an avid wine consumer and collector for over 20 years. This pastime has taken he and his family on many visits to wine growing regions, including Arizona. During these excursions, with the accompanying tastings and lectures, it became clear that there is no "magic bullet" wine. For each wine contains its own character, strong points, and weaknesses. Sharing these experiences to help anyone purchase locally available wines is his goal.

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