The Edmond Sun

Food

September 10, 2012

Rediscover Riesling, the noble grape

WIRE — If you ask a sommelier to name her favorite grape, there’s a good chance she’ll say Riesling.

If you’re surprised, then it’s probably because you associate Riesling with the sweet, simple German wines of yesteryear, like Blue Nun, Liebfraumilch, and Piesporter. These wines were — and still are — affordable and approachable. And they’ll always have fans. But they do a disservice to true Riesling.

Fortunately, that could soon change. New York City sommelier and restaurateur Paul Grieco is on a mission to make sure that Americans give Riesling the respect it deserves.

Grieco’s crusade began in 2008, when he announced a plan to focus on Riesling all summer long at Terroir Wine Bar in New York City’s East Village.

In a “single-minded attempt to get guests to at least try this noble grape,” Grieco offered only Riesling as his by-the-glass white wine offering. As he tells it, “the staff was incredulous and the guests suspect, but with 30 different glass pours ... we set upon a massive inspirational and educational scheme that was challenging and fun.”

His campaign quickly took off.

In 2010, 14 wine bars in New York joined together to create a Riesling Pub Crawl; several well-known Riesling producers visited the city; and Grieco organized a concert where only Riesling was served. Last year, about 200 bars and restaurants across the country took part by hosting events, offering specials, and agreeing to spread the gospel of Riesling.

This summer, the “Summer of Riesling” attracted nearly 500 participants. (To see if anyone is participating in your community, head to www.SummerOfRiesling.com.)

Misconceptions still abound, but consumers are starting to recognize that Riesling is a serious grape. Over the past several years, Riesling sales have steadily risen. And sommeliers are finding that consumers are extremely receptive to the grape.

Riesling’s greatest strength is its versatility.

First, there’s its geographical diversity.

While its ancestral home is Germany, where Riesling has been grown in the Rhine and Mosel Valleys since the 14th century, it’s also the most planted grape in the Alsace region of France. The grape is also experiencing a resurgence in the United States, especially in New York’s Finger Lakes. And there are sizeable plantings of Riesling in Austria, New Zealand, and Australia.

There’s also its sweetness.

Some Rieslings are syrupy and lusciously sweet — and work as dessert. Others are bone dry, pairing best with raw fish, subtle cheeses, and other light dishes. Most fall somewhere in between, and are the perfect match for spicy Asian cuisine, like Thai and Indian. All are marked by high acidity, which is why it’s such an adaptable food wine. And all are extremely fragrant. It’s no wonder why so many sommeliers love Riesling.

Don’t ever let Riesling’s sweetness trick you into thinking it’s not a serious wine.

Sommeliers also evangelize about Riesling because it’s so good at capturing terroir, or a wine’s sense of place. In part, this is because most Riesling is fermented in stainless steel, so it isn’t manipulated through oak aging or other winemaking techniques. The grape is remarkably transparent — German researchers have found a link between soil type and flavor in Riesling. Riesling grapes sourced from slate vineyards tend to produce wines with citrus aromas, while grapes sourced from limestone vineyards typically result in more tropical fruit aromas.

As Robert Parker, the world’s most famous wine critic, recently explained, “If you want to talk about terroir, talk about German Rieslings or Alsace Rieslings, where the wines are naked — there’s no makeup.”

Even though Riesling sales have been rising, Grieco and other Riesling proselytizers still have their work cut out -- Riesling accounts for just 5 percent U.S. wine sales. But it’s not by accident that Riesling has long been known as the “noblest of the noble grapes.” So don’t be surprised if the next time you dine out, your waiter steers you towards a glass of Riesling.

DAVID WHITE, a wine writer, is the founder and editor of Terroirist.com. His columns are housed at Wines.com, the fastest growing wine portal on the Internet.

1
Text Only
Food
  • Tips for summer grilling safety

    When it comes to summer fun, one thing many families enjoy is cooking on the grill. Whether it is charcoal or gas, there is something that definitely says summer when grilling.

    July 28, 2014

  • Beaujolais: The Greatest Secret in Wine

    One hundred years ago, the Wine Society, a wine club in London, offered its members a Beaujolais from the appellation of Moulin à Vent for $29 per case. It offered cases of Burgundy from the appellations of Beaune and Pommard for around $36 each.

    July 28, 2014

  • Shopping smarter for family necessities can help the environment

    There’s a growing trend among consumers to make choices reflecting the goals and values that matter to them most.  In fact, two out of five people say they’re more inspired to try a natural product that does something good for themselves, their family and the planet, according to a recent study conducted by Toluna for natural products brand Tom’s of Maine.

    July 21, 2014

  • Back to school lunch Build a better bag

    Brown bag lunches and back to school go hand in hand. As you’re gearing up for the start of a new school year, it’s the perfect time to stock the pantry with healthy sack lunch options and after school snacks, too.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kids Cook Simple ways canned foods get children cooking

    When it comes to teaching children about healthy eating habits, there’s no better classroom than the kitchen.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls The Canebrake offers summer recipe for Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls

    The Canebrake, a destination hotel and spa in Wagoner, is offering the following recipe from its restaurant for Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls with Avocado Wasabi Puree.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fruits and Veggies Tips to increase your fruit and vegetable intake

    It’s no secret that the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables are a key to good health — from building immunity, to decreasing inflammation, to helping you maintain a healthy weight.
    Luckily, there are many ways to ensure you incorporate a sufficient amount of produce in your diet to fuel your day and help you feel great.

    June 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Comic books and thoroughbreds, inspired by wine

    Outside the Bay Area, few wine enthusiasts realize that California’s wine scene is incredibly welcoming.

    June 23, 2014

  • Wines of the West slated for June 7

    Stockyards City presents the fifth annual Wines of the West festival on Saturday. The event takes place from noon to 4 p.m. and features wine tasting in an Old West environment. The stockyards area of Oklahoma City has been active for more than 100 years offering western wear, entertainment and ambience. Stockyards City is on the National Register of Historic Places and still has weekly live cattle auctions.
    Ten wineries will provide samples of a variety of locally produced wines. The wineries participating are: Plain View Winery, Stable Ridge Winery, Wood & Waters, Oak Hills Winery, The Range Winery, Whirlwind Winery, Summerside Winery, Canadian River Winery, Base Vines and Cattle and Wakefield Winery. Tasting will be available as visitors browse retail shops in Stockyards City. Food vendors will be set up in the street for convenience.

    June 3, 2014

  • Wine tasting event raises awareness about Y’s international programs

    The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City will present its eighth annual international wine taste event, A Taste Of Culture, at Café do Brazil on Sunday. The event helps raise funds to support the Y’s international partnerships with YMCAs in Belo Horizonte, Brazil; the Czech Republic; Valparaiso, Chile; the Mexican Federation of Ys; and the Sioux Indians

    June 2, 2014