Tuesday 20 March 2018

Riesling: not all sweetness and light

Riesling is probably the most 'misunderstood' of white wines.
Riesling is probably the most 'misunderstood' of white wines.

Liam Campbell

Of all white wines, Riesling (pronounced "reece-ling") is probably the most misunderstood. Some believe it is high on sweetness and low in flavour. The reality is so often the reverse. In its native Germany, Riesling produces some of the most uber-chic and elegant dry wines.

In the late 1800s, Germany's noblest Rieslings were the most exclusive white wines in the world, fetching prices higher than Burgundy's best and Champagne's grandest brands. Their fantastic reputation was undermined by two World Wars and overshadowed by the 1970's global success of a fruity cheap and cheerful, sweetish white wine containing precious little, if any Riesling. Liebfraumilch (literally meaning virgin's milk) helped to wean us off beer and soft drinks. For many, it was our first stepping-stone across the river of wine.

What Riesling actually delivers is a wine that is noticeably dry with pure citrus fruit and is never oaked, echoing Pinot Grigio and Chablis. Its mouth-watering lime acidity makes Riesling very food-friendly, particularly with Indian and Thai dishes.

Like a low voltage electric current, it can tingle parts of the palate no toothbrush can reach. Next time you raise a glass, raise a Riesling.

Riesling is probably the most 'misunderstood' of white wines.

1) Riesling 2012, Prinz von Hessen, Rheingau 11pc

Perfumed with spearmint and granite minerality, a nettle sting invigorates the entry and steely acidity lingers. Aristocratic assertiveness with a very minerally finish. Open with grilled oysters topped with breadcrumbs.

€17.99 at Jus De Vine, Portmarnock; Red Earth, Mullingar and Ardkeen, Waterford

2) Dry Riesling 2011, Bend in the River, Rheinhessen 11.5pc

Uncomplicated freshly squeezed lemon scents and flavours. Pithy and zesty to the finish. Try with a creamy fish pie and parsnip mash.

€11.00 nationwide at Dunnes Stores, Next Door chain of off-licences, SuperValu and Centra

3) Riesling Incline 2012, Selbach, Mosel 11.5pc

Off-dry palate with green apple fruit and racy lime acidity, streaked with a wet slate mineraliness. Match with Thai chilli fishcakes.

€13.49 from €14.99 until April 31 at O'Brien's stores 32 outlets nationwide

4) Riesling 2012, Leitz, Rheingau 12pc

Chalk-dry with a minerally attack on the entry. A citrus fest of limes and grapefruits assault the taste buds and takes no prisoners. Serve with a cheese and leek tart with cumin seeds.

€14.00 at The Counter, Letterkenny; 64 Wine, Glasthule and Sweeney's, Glasnevin

5) Riesling 2012, Haus Klosterberg, Markus Molitor, Mosel 11.5pc

Off-dry with a distinct minerally character persisting to a slate finish. Light-bodied, pithy, zesty and mouth-watering. Enjoy with spaghetti tossed with lemon and garlic butter.

€18.25 online at tindalwine.com

6) Schifter Riesling 2011, Villa Huesgen, Mosel 11.5pc

Dry and classic palate of mineral and grapefruit. No gilding, just unadorned and focused citrus fruit; floral and feminine. Savour with prawns fried with ginger, garlic and lime.

€19.99 at Parting Glass, Enniskerry; No 21 Midleton; Matson's, Bandon and Adare Beverages, Galway

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