Regular readers of The Kitchn will by now know that I am a huge Riesling fan. Versatile and extremely age-worthy, Riesling comes in many styles from still to sparkling, and from austerely dry to decadently sweet. Often misunderstood, the "Summer of Riesling" concept was created in 2008 to encourage more wine drinkers to try Riesling.
Created by the well-known Canadian born, New York City sommelier and restaurateur Paul Grieco, the essential idea behind "Summer of Riesling" was that if you could get wine drinkers to try different Riesling styles, they would find something they liked. Paul made a brave decision to pour only Riesling by the glass in his well-trafficked New York City wine bar Terroir, for the entire summer. By offering 30 different Riesling pours, he believed that there was something for everyone, even the most skeptic wine drinker.
I have often wondered why Riesling seems to incite such a love-hate debate. Perhaps it is because people dislike the off-dry style of many Riesling wines? Or perhaps it is the bracing acidity for which Riesling wines are known? By offering such a broad array of styles, Paul tried to illustrate that there is more to Riesling than 'fruity' and 'medium-sweet', enabling interested wine drinkers to discover the delicacy, purity and mineral expression that defines Riesling. The good thing now is that more and more Rieslings available in the US market are dry (trocken – if German), which may have broader appeal.
The "Summer of Riesling" idea gained a lot of publicity and interest. It was such a success that it has been continued every summer since. And, not just in New York; it has expanded to include wine bars and restaurants in many other U.S. cities.
As a devoted Riesling supporter, I think "Summer of Riesling" is a fantastic, innovative idea and encourage any readers who come across participating establishments to give it a try.
When we think of where Riesling wines come from, many of us immediately think of Germany. While Riesling is Germany's most important grape variety and wine, it is worth trying some of the Rieslings made in Austria, Alsace (France), Eden and Clare Valley (Australia), Tasmania, New Zealand, Washington State or the Fingerlakes (New York).
Rieslings to Enjoy This Summer
Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy my own "Summer of Riesling". There is always a bottle chilling in the fridge. Here are some of my more recent tastings.
• 2008 Tesch Riesling Unplugged, Trocken, Nahe, Germany, $20 – I have long been a fan of the Tesch 'Unplugged', a great all year house wine. Medley of juicy stone fruit, ruby grapefruit, spice and a lovely earthy minerality. Shows a real sense of place.
• 2009 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Bernkastler Badstube Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany, $25 – While the long name might seem a bit of a mouthful, it is worth seeking out. Crisp and quite delicious with ripe yellow peach, apricot and tangerine flavors. Hints of flint and spice. Kabinett level sweetness is well balanced.
• 2009 Clemensbusch Riesling Trocken, Mosel, Germany, $ 20 – I discovered this producer while visiting the Mosel last year and love the wines. Racy acidity, dry, enticing aromas and packed with delicious ripe juicy stone fruit and exotic citrus with hints of fresh blossoms and jasmine tea.
• 2009 Clüsserath Weiler Riesling HC, Mosel, Germany, $14 – Deliciously fruity. Racy acidity that makes it seems quite dry (though 17g/l residual sugar). Lots of focused minerality.
• 2009 Bernard Eifel Kabinett Feinherb, Mosel, Germany, $16 – Enticing floral nose – lilac, white blossoms with hints of rosewater and spice. Delicate, crisp, refreshing with lots of minerality.
• 2009 Schloss Schoenborn Riesling Qualitätswein, Feinherb, Rheingau, Germany, $15 – From the Rheingau. Pale lemon color. Very precise, clean, minerally nose with lots of zesty citrus fruit. Little spritz on the palate. Very refreshing.
• 2008 'Fritzs' Fritz Hasselbach Riesling, Qualitatswein, Rheinhessen, Germany, $13 – Delicately aromatic nose of citrus cocktail, white peach with hints of minerality. Light bodied, crisp and refreshing with ample fruit and lively tangy flavors. Not very complex, but a great summer sipper.
• 2008 Selbach Kabinett (Fish Label) Riesling, Mosel, Germany, $15 – Quite aromatic with a delightful medley of tropical and stone aromas and flavors. Quite niticeable minerality and delicious, juicy long finish. Great value and a fun colorful label.
• 2008 Georg Breuer Terra Montosa Riesling, Rheingau, Germany, $21 – I love this wine. Crisp, stony, minerally, focused, taut with vibrant flavors of white peach, nectarine, apricot, tangerine with hint of spice. Long, persistent, lively finish.
Any readers enjoying some Riesling this summer?
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
Related: Who Loves German Riesling Wines?
(Images: Mary Gorman as well Summer of Riesling and producer websites)