First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 10th August, 2019
Riesling nerds such as myself tend to get very excited about high-quality Riesling. It is one of the world’s great white wines, every bit as good and arguably more reliable than Chardonnay.
This year, I have been drinking my way through a ‘forgotten’ mixed collection of mature German dry Rieslings (as well as some amazing Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2005 from Australia). Virtually all of them have been great, some sublime.
However, I suspect the price tag of top German Riesling (€40-€60) will put most wine drinkers off. Also, for some, the developed flavours of aged Riesling is a step too far. Instead this week I will concentrate on younger, less expensive fruit-filled dry German Riesling, one of the great summer wines.
Officially, German wines are put into precise categories based on the ripeness (or sugar levels) of the grapes when picked. But here is the confusing bit – Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese wines, made from riper grapes in ascending order, can be dry, medium-dry, or in the case of Auslese, sweet, depending on whether the sugar has been fermented fully or not. If the word ‘Kabinett’ is followed by the word ’trocken’, it is dry, or dryish, or ‘halbtrocken’ and it is off-dry.
Confused? Join the rest of the world, including much of the wine trade. Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese wines can all be glorious wines. During the warm weather there are few things nicer than a chilled glass of fragrant Mosel Kabinett or Spätlese, usually around 8 per cent alcohol, filled with delicate ripe fruits.
A generation ago, these medium-dry and sweet German wines were very fashionable. Since then, many growers have changed course radically and now simply produce trocken or dry wines, ignoring the official designations.
Most of the time, I drink Riesling Trocken. It has the body and richness of any dry wine, a wonderful purity of fruit, backed up by a cleansing vibrant acidity. As outlined earlier this year, it is a great match for all kinds of shellfish, raw seafood such as oysters, ceviche and sashimi, as well as pickled, smoked or cured fish. You could also try it with pork dishes. Or you can drink it as an aperitif.
If you feel German Riesling might be a step too far, you could start off with a fruitier, richer Riesling such as the Austrian Brandl below or an Aussie Riesling – the Alkoomi (€15.15, Wines Direct), the Penfolds Koonunga Hills Autumn (€20.95, O’Briens) or the Aldi Exquisite Clare Valley Riesling (€9.99). Alternatively pop into your local independent, and ask for a Riesling Trocken; you might be pleasantly surprised.
Geil Riesling Trocken 2018, Rheinhessen
Vibrant, light, luscious pineapples and pears; made for summer drinking either solo or with fish dishes – Asian prawn recipes sound perfect.
From Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3, clontarfwines.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin, jusdevine.ie; Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie; 1601 Off-licence, Kinsale, Co Cork; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; Drinkstore, Dublin 7, drinkstore.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Red Island Wine Co, Skerries, Co Dublin; Lilac Wines, Dublin 3, lilacwines.ie; Martin’s Off-Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6, redmonds.ie; D-Six Wines, Dublin 6; peggykellys.ie; Higgins, Dublin 14, higginsofflicence.ie; McHughs, Dublin 5, mchughs.ie; Mortons of Galway, mortonsofgalway.ie; La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow; latouchewines4u.ie; Listons, Dublin 2,listonsfoodstore.ie; Nectar Wines, Dublin 18, nectarwines.com.
Maximin Riesling 2017, Maximin Grünhaus, Mosel
Ethereal wine with crisp green apples and white peach, with a lovely floral note. Drink it by itself, with oysters or maybe salmon tartare.
From Ely Wine Store, Maynooth, Co Kildare, elywinebar.ie; Red Island Wine Co, Skerries, Co Dublin; Red Nose Wines, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, rednosewine.com; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin,jusdevine.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com;wineonline.ie
Brandl Zöbing Riesling Terrassen 2018, Kamptal, Austria
Very seductive clean concentrated stewed apples with a hint of spice. Try it with pork chops with caramelised apples.
From Wines Direct, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, and Arnotts, Dublin 1, winesdirect.ie
Win Win Riesling Trocken 2017, von Winning
Packed with succulent ripe white fruits – all peaches and nectarines – with a mouth-watering citrus acidity. Drink it with a herby crab salad.
From Avoca, Rathcoole, Co Dublin; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3, clontarfwines.ie; Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin,onthegrapevine.ie; Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6, redmonds.ie; Worldwide Wines,