First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 4th August, 2017
As we move into full summer mode, it is time to return to one of the great loves of my life, Riesling. If you are beginning to suffer from Sauvignon fatigue, or tiring of tasteless Pinot Grigio, then this is the time to acquaint yourself with one of the world’s great wines. Dry (and even off-dry) Riesling is fresh and aromatic, perfect for drinking with or without food during the summer months. The wines usually have a class and complexity that leaves the two aforementioned grape varieties trailing in their wake.
Germany is still the best producer of Riesling in the world. A few words worth remembering here; trocken means dry in German, so you can expect these to be fairly dry or bone dry. A Kabinett without the word trocken will be off-dry, but don’t let this put you off; this is a classic style that the Mosel region does really well. The wines can be exceptional. But the fashion in Germany is for trocken, so most wines will be dry.
After Germany, Austria, Australia and Alsace all make very good dry versions. The Austrian wines tend to be a little more full-bodied, but it depends on vintage and winemaker. My favourite region is probably Kamptal, but many other Riesling aficionados prefer the richer style found in the Wachau.
Most parts of Germany produce a decent Riesling; it is their national grape after all. The Mosel and Rheingau are probably the best known, but the Rheinhessen, Nahe and Franken all offer wines that are every bit as good. Each region produces wine with its own distinctive style, while still remaining unmistakably Riesling. Most decent retail shops now have at least one German or Austrian Riesling, including some of the multiples. I would steer clear of those under €10, unless you want to relive past experiences with Liebfraumilch and other sweetish nasties. The best German and Austrian Rieslings are in great demand at home and abroad, so sadly, the best do not come cheap. However, the overall quality is both very high and consistent. As Riesling ages very well, don’t be too concerned if you are offered wines that are two to three years old. You should be in for a treat.
The lighter off-dry wines of the Mosel are perfect deckchair wines, for sipping in the shade, on their own, or with a few nibbles. The bigger, drier trocken wines fit this bill too, but are also very much at home with seafood and white meats. My own favourite match is with fresh Irish crab, but Riesling also makes a great partner for many Asian foods, sushi and green curry in particular.
Four Rieslings to try
Pristine, lightly honeyed peaches with a clean mineral core, the off-dry finish perfectly balanced by the lively acidity. Stockists: Searsons, Monkstown; Baggot Street Wines.
Bone dry with delightful rich apricot fruits cut through with citrus and spice. Stockists: Quintessential Wines, Drogheda; 64 Wine.
Succulent, mouthwatering peach and pineapple with a fine crisp dry finish. Stockists: Avoca Rathcoole; Drinkstore; Sweeney’s; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Martin’s, Fairview; Clontarf Wines.
Lean, clean fresh green apple and pear fruits with an off-dry finish.
Stockists: Morton’s, Ranelagh; Jus de Vine; Nolan’s, Clontarf.