What is a Riesling Wine? How to Tell in a Blind Taste Test
Riesling is rapidly becoming one of the most popular white wines in the U.S. Still to this day, one of the most common questions we get from new wine drinkers is, exactly what is a Riesling? It’s an honest question, because, for the longest time, many people shunned this wine because they believed that Riesling was just another sweet white wine; however, nothing could be further from the truth. What is Riesling? Riesling wine is produced in many styles that run the entire gamut from extremely sweet to bone-dry. Today, many types of Riesling wines are produced in the U.S., including in California, Washington, Oregon, and New York. U.S. Riesling’s quality rivals the best Rieslings produced in Germany, Austria, Canada, and Australia. But no matter where Riesling is produced, it is one of the more outstanding white wines and has become a favorite among sommeliers.
WHERE DOES RIESLING WINE COME FROM?
While Riesling was first produced in Germany, today many other nations also make Riesling. In general, the Riesling grape prefers cooler climates, which permit its natural acidity to become prominent. What is a Riesling wine? Overall, German Riesling is on the sweeter side; for example, Kabinett is light and has hints of sweetened ripe fruit, whereas the Trockenbeerenauslese (what a mouthful) Riesling is more obviously sweet. However, anytime you come across a German Riesling labeled Trocken, this usually indicates that the wine is dry. How can you tell if a wine is a Riesling in a blind taste test? Depending on where it is grown, Riesling will have a distinct taste of minerality.
In the U.S., the Pacific Northwest–notably Oregon and Washington–produce excellent quality Riesling. Besides the dramatic ways Riesling acquires minerality from the soil in which it is grown, it also offers a wide range of styles for consumers to choose from. Even the sweet Riesling has adequate acidity to negate the excess residual sugar, permitting each sip to be mouth-watering, fresh, and decadent.
What is Riesling? At a restaurant or even at home, it is difficult to find a more food-friendly wine than Riesling. The high acidity permits it to cut through fattier dishes and rich sauces; further, any sweetness means that it will pair well with any dessert or fruit. Plus, the combination of acidity and sweetness will permit the wine to pair well with spicy or aromatic foods. Compared to many other more expensive white wines that can age for any length of time, Riesling is relatively affordable and offers great quality. For example, compared to Chardonnay, Riesling is a far more impressive wine, and much easier to pair with food.
THE TASTE OF RIESLING
What is a Riesling wine? The sweet variety will often reveal the presence of a variety of fruit, whereas the dry Riesling will be fresher, more delicious, and savory. No matter which Riesling you select, a universal feature is that the beverage will have traces of citrus fruit (lime, lemon), stone fruit (nectarine, peaches, apricot), orchard fruit (pears, apples), and hints of minerals, spice (ginger, lemongrass), and sometimes honey. All these characteristics can help determine if the wine is a Riesling in a blind taste test.
HOW TO SERVE RIESLING
To enjoy Riesling, it is best served chilled. But this also depends on whether the wine is dry or sweet. In general, cooler temperatures are ideal for the sweetened versions, but for the off-dry Riesling, slightly warmer temperatures will allow the ripened fruit and sweetness to permeate the wine. If you are going to be drinking Riesling, place it in the refrigerator for about two hours and then take it out about 20 minutes before serving.
What is Riesling? A few very good quality and affordable Riesling wines are indicated below: