Riesling is difficult to understand! Just last weekend while shopping in the behemoth that is my neighborhood wine shop, I took a moment and stared at the German Riesling section. I knew that I wanted a dry expression of Riesling and I was terrified of choosing incorrectly.
Considered Germany's greatest grape, Riesling comes in a range of sweetness and ripeness that yield a variety of styles. From bone dry to sticky sweet it is very easy to accidentally pick the wrong bottle. Dry Rieslings will always be labeled as "Trocken", a Riesling with a little residual sugar will be labeled "halbtrocken" and the sweet wines are simply labeled sweet. Ripeness also plays a role in sweetness as the riper the fruit, the higher the odds for sweetness. From less ripe to ripest the labeling goes like this: Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese (BA), Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA).
Germany's magical soil and climate conditions combine to grow Riesling grapes with racing acidity. The acididty is so powerful that the sugary sweetness of the desert wines are never too overwhelming. However these sweet wines are often not the right dinner partners. Rather stick down at the Kabinett end and look for something labeled, “Trocken”.
The 2004 Sybille Kuntz was a lovely discovery. A modern winery by German standards, they have a woman at the helm and they practice sustainable agriculture.
The estate Riesling (Trocken) was delicious with lively minerality, playful fruit and a suggestion of sweetness. It was a great accompaniment to our Thai inspired meal of steamed mussels with chile, lemongrass & coconut milk.
Stores: Appellation Wines & Spirits $15.99 (156 10th Avenune btwn 19th & 20th Streets), Martin Brothers $15.99 (2781 Broadway @ 106th Street), Astor Wines & Spirits 2003 vintage for $16.99 (399 Lafayette @ W. 4th)