Wine: reaquaint yourself with riesling | Fiona Beckett on wine

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Modern riesling is a very different wine from its predecessors, so give it a second chance

Apart from the multiple kindnesses of friends and new-found neighbours, it’s hard to find a silver lining to the current situation, but one positive is having time to learn stuff you don’t know. In wine terms, that could be a country, a region or a grape variety, particularly one you may have failed to get to grips with in the past, and the immediate one that pops to my mind is riesling.

Now, before you say you wine writers are always banging on about riesling, that’s true, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it the greatest white wine grape in the world (for me, that’s chardonnay). It is, however, massively intriguing in the way it reflects the place where it’s made, its wildly varying levels of sweetness (no, it’s not all sweet) and its ability to age, which may mean that that elderly bottle you stumbled across at the back of the cupboard is, in fact, OK. Riesling also has the advantage of going brilliantly with spicy food and being relatively low in alcohol, which makes it perfect for this time of year.

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Germany | The Guardian

Apart from the multiple kindnesses of friends and new-found neighbours, it’s hard to find a silver lining to the current situation, but one positive is having time to learn stuff you don’t know. In wine terms, that could be a country, a region or a grape variety, particularly one you may have failed to get to grips with in the past, and the immediate one that pops to my mind is riesling.

Now, before you say you wine writers are always banging on about riesling, that’s true, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it the greatest white wine grape in the world (for me, that’s chardonnay). It is, however, massively intriguing in the way it reflects the place where it’s made, its wildly varying levels of sweetness (no, it’s not all sweet) and its ability to age, which may mean that that elderly bottle you stumbled across at the back of the cupboard is, in fact, OK. Riesling also has the advantage of going brilliantly with spicy food and being relatively low in alcohol, which makes it perfect for this time of year.

Part of the problem, of course, is that riesling is inextricably associated with Germany, so has to deal with the historic baggage between our two nations, though that’s mercifully dying out, and not before time. It’s also fair to say that the German wines exported here in the 60s and 70s – not always riesling, but often mistaken for it – were woefully poor. Add to that a bewildering labelling system (how can spätlese be both a dry and a sweet wine?), as well as tortuously complicated names and labels, and you can see why the stuff fell so out of favour. But German rieslings have changed: these days, they’re drier, higher in alcohol (many Mosel wines are now 11% or 11.5%, rather than 8-9%) and, in many cases, snappily packaged, as you can see from the Shhh… It’s Riesling in the panel below. And, hooray, sealed with a screw-cap rather than a cork.

You also find great riesling in Alsace, Austria and in the new world in Australia, New Zealand and North America’s Washington State. The most rewarding ones, as usual, are to be found in independents such as The Winery, or online retailers such as The Wine Society, which has just started delivering again, though at time of writing only by the unsplit case. These supermarket rieslings should at least give you a taste for it, however. Who knows, you might even be able to convert the neighbours…

Five rieslings to try on your own (or drink with friends on Zoom)

Shhh… It’s Riesling 2019

£6 Co-op, 11.5%.

I’ve been warned that there are limited quantities of this crisp, citrussy, dry riesling with its beguiling whiff of green granny smith apple, so grab one if you see it. I like a bottle that pokes gentle fun at itself.

Riesling Scheurebe Halbtrocken 2018

£5.99 Lidl, 11.5%.

A good buy from Lidl’s latest ‘Wine Tour’ release, which focuses on riesling. Deliciously fruity but, as the word halbtrocken indicates, off-dry. Would stand up well to an Indian, Thai or Chinese takeaway. (Lidl’s lively, limey Clare Valley Riesling at £6.99 is a good buy, too.)

Specially Selected Alsace Riesling 2018

£6.99 Aldi, 12%.

A well-priced example of the drier style you find in Alsace. Would be perfect with creamy sauces or an onion tart.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Austrian Riesling 2018

£8.75, 12.5%.

Austria also produces drier, less floral rieslings than Germany – a good starting point, if you’re new to riesling. Lovely with a schnitzel or, more realistically, a breaded chicken fillet.

Fritz Willi Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium 2018

£11.25 Rannoch Scott, £12.95 The Secret Bottle Shop, 11%.

An altogether more elegant affair, seductively rounded, with a lovely touch of honey and lime. I’m thinking salmon, if you have some.

For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingwineandfood.com


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