Back Story. The Rhine region of Germany is thought to be the birthplace of Riesling. It’s used to make white wines with floral, fruit-driven aromatics and high acidity levels that facilitate food pairing. Remember, pairing is not as hard as it’s cracked up to be – foods have fat; wines have acid; and matching them up is more trial and error than science…. My favorite Rieslings come from Alsace, the northern French region that shares a border with Germany. (Side Bar/Wine Bar – Alsatian winemakers also produce delicious Pinot Blancs and Gewürztraminers.)
Flavor Profile. As mentioned, Rieslings run the gamut from bone-dry to very sweet. The natural acidity of the grape balances the residual sugar in its sweeter versions. Rieslings from cooler climates (especially Germany) tend to be full-bodied, thicker and almost honey-like, providing an interesting contrast to the characteristics that acidity lends to the wine. When grown in warmer climates like Australia or California, the grape tends to make lighter wines that combine perfumed fruit notes and traces of minerality.
Food Pairings. Here’s where Riesling gives you the chance to be DA MAN by impressing your date or other half. It pairs perfectly with a range of Asian, pan-Asian and Asian fusion dishes. Take-out Thai food is a natural born match, as is moderately spicy Indian food. Stir-fry, whether at home or in a Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant, goes great with an “off-dry” (wine-speak for “slightly sweet”) Riesling. In short, any cuisine with a little heat to it – say, from chili oil – pairs well with an aromatic and/or sweeter white wine. For dessert, try cutting a small cantaloupe in half, pouring some late harvest Riesling into each half and feeding each other. If that doesn’t get you somewhere, nothing will get you anywhere….
Price. You can find a nice bottle of Riesling in the $15-$30 range at any wine shop or in the super market. A higher-end bottle may run as high as $50. In a restaurant, expect to pay more than that, of course.
Good luck getting your Riesling on!
Photos used under Creative Commons from Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble