Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer of Riesling and #Winechat, A Great Live Tasting

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For riesling fans, this is again the "Summer of Riesling", a month-long festival celebrating one of the world's great grape varieties. I take this as a charge to evangelize about riesling, to educate wine drinkers that it isn't always sweet, as well as to recommend examples that riesling newbies might like. I'm far from an authority though, my own exploration of riesling has been somewhat late in starting.

Most of us have a riesling horror story or two, I'm no different. There are terrible examples of sweet, syrupy, low-quality riesling you can buy from grocery stores, those do a disservice to the grape though. Such wines are how I thought riesling always was, until I tried some "real" examples from Germany several years ago.

I'm lucky to have some riesling-geek friends here in Oregon, most notably Dan and Chas of Wine Is Serious Business, who've introduced me to great wines and great riesling evangelists around Portland.

Last week, during the weekly Twitter chat #winechat, a large group of riesling lovers got together to talk about the Summer of Riesling and of course, about the wines. I was fortunate to get some samples sent, of riesling from Alsace in France, Rheingau in Germany, and Wagram, Austria. I present them from dry to sweet.

2011 Fritsch Riesling Wagram (Austria): Aromas of stone fruit, white pepper, flowers, and wet gravel all combine to create an expressive, fun bouquet. The acidity is high, this riesling screams out of the glass and across your palate. I was able to detect citrus, stone fruit, and more of the firm mineral touch. Out of the three rieslings in the #winechat flight, this seemed to have the most acid and least residual sugar. I loved the texture of this wine, and how it begs for spicy food like curry. The finish is clean and tapers off nicely, lasting for an impressive length of time. $18 srp. 12.5% abv.

2009 Gustave Lorentz Riesling Alsace (France): Compared to the Austrian riesling I tasted first, this is a different wine entirely. The bouquet is much more expressive, showing aromas of honey, white flower, ripe stone fruit, and hints of petrol. I would say that this bouquet is closer to what I expect from a German riesling, it's got some of those familiar notes. The acidity here is much more integrated and less dominating than in the Fritsch, creating a wonderful textural experience. Flavors of nectarine, apricot, grass, and lime all contribute to a wonderful palate experience. A classic pairing would be spicy Thai food or even tempura sushi rolls. $25 srp. 12% abv.

2011 Schloss Schonborn Riesling Rheingau (Germany): As I swirled and sniffed the last riesling of the flight, I felt most "at home", this is the style of riesling I'm most familiar with. The bouquet screams (to me) that it's German, with beautiful notes of slate, lemon zest, honeysuckle, and intriguing white pepper. It tastes simply outstanding, with a perfectly tipped balance between sweet and tart, a tribute to the residual sugar and acidity both. There are some primary flavors of Meyer lemon, white pepper, subtle tropical fruit, and what I imagine a slab of slate would taste like. After you swallow, the finish lasts a good 20 seconds before gently fading away. I'd love to pair this with deep-fried foods, Thai cuisine, or anything with some heat to it. $54 srp. 11% abv.

These three rieslings were excellent, and worth every penny. While $54 or even $25 is a lot to spend on a bottle of wine you may be unfamiliar with, that $18 Fritsch bottle is well worth a little splurge. One sip and any notions you have of a sweet, syrupy concoction will be obliterated in a rush of fresh, clean fruit flavors and vibrant acidity. I'd recommend it (or any Austrian riesling) to people just starting to explore the grape, but who do love crisp, aromatic white wines already.

For more information on the recent #winechat with the Summer of Riesling, here's a good blog from the Austrian Wine USA's Constance Chamberlain. You can tweet with Summer of Riesling @SummerRiesling, or for more detailed information about specific regions, tweet at @AustrianWineUSA or @drinkAlsace.

The wines in this article were kindly provided as media samples.

Beau Carufel

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