Resurrecting Riesling

The sommelier Sandia Chang makes the case for revisiting this unfairly maligned white wine of German origins

Riesling grapes in in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. Image: Getty

Often when I present a Riesling to a guest for their wine-matching, I see a distasteful expression on their face as if someone had just force-fed them a spoon full of tutti-frutti-flavoured sugar. Many people’s experience of the wine has been tainted by the memory of bargain blue-glass bottles on the supermarket shelves or simply by its reputation. Not all Rieslings are made equal; in fact, it is one of the most versatile grape varieties for wine-making.

Originally from Germany, Rieslings from Alsace to Germany to New Zealand can have three completely different characters. The wine can be bone dry or elegantly sweet. It can pair well with fish, vegetable, cheese, meat and, well, almost everything. For that reason, Riesling is my desert-island wine – and here are two of the best.

Dr Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes NY, USA 

Although Rieslings are originally from Germany, many new wine-producing regions of the world have found comfortable homes for this grape to immigrate to. The Finger Lakes, in upstate New York, produces some of the best in the US. This one is a great example of a dry Riesling, with no sugar and no sweetness, just explosions of grapefruit, lime and orange blossoms. It benefits from the minerality of limestones, which makes it taste like drinking fresh lemonade from a stone cup. I would drink this with seafood dishes, spicy Asian food or just by itself. Available from Matthew Clark.

Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese, Nahe 2016

Dönnhoff makes the best example of sweeter German-style Rieslings. Spätlese refers to a type of wine whose grapes are harvested when the grapes are much riper than usual and hence contain higher sugar levels. This wine is remarkably light, with luscious pears, white peaches and honeysuckle. It is bright and juicy with a discreet sweetness that blends in with remarkable finesse. I would drink this with a rich stew of pork belly, with cheese or on its own. Available from Tannico.

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