Riesling: A Somm Fascination



We all have our favorite, daily drinker white wines, right? Maybe it’s a crisp Sancerre, perfect on a hot summer day. Or perhaps an easy drinking Pinot Grigio to sip on by the pool. Maybe your favorite is a Chardonnay from Burgundy that would pair beautifully with the seabass you’re having for dinner tonight. Whatever it may be, we all have our go-to whites. But have you ever heard someone say that their favorite white wine is a Riesling? The answer is probably no, unless you have a friend that is a sommelier because we can’t get enough of the stuff


Misunderstood and Misrepresented


As certified sommeliers, we’ve made it our personal mission to change the perception of this often-misrepresented varietal. We believe the reason for this misrepresentation is because many years ago Riesling was placed in the category of ‘sweet wines’ and there it has lived…forever! Don’t get us wrong, there are some beautiful examples of Riesling that are sweet, and we love those too. However, there are also some incredible bone dry, mouthwatering Riesling’s- layered with notes of ripe peach, tropical fruit, petrol, citrus and wet rock- and these are the wines that we gravitate towards.


History and Regions


The Riesling grape dates back at least 500 years and most likely originated in the Rhine River Valley of southwestern Germany. Riesling is grown in wine regions all over the world but most commonly found in Germany and Alsace. More recently, we’ve seen some lovely examples of the varietal coming out of:


  • Austria
  • Australia
  • South Africa
  • New Zealand
  • Domestically in Oregon, California, Washington and the Fingerlake District of New York


Additionally, it is said to be one of the most terroir expressive varietals, meaning it takes on the character of the soil and climate in which it’s grown (Insider wine tip: the famous slate soils of the Mosel add a beautiful minerality to the wines).


Specific Characteristics


Most Riesling, unlike Chardonnay, does not undergo malolactic fermentation (the process in which tart, malic acid is converted to a softer, creamier lactic acid), which helps to preserve the tartness and acidic characteristics that make Riesling such a food-friendly, thirst-quenching wine. The versatile nature of this varietal makes it an easy-to-pair wine that can stand up to the boldest of dishes- including the spicier flavors of the Thai and Chinese culture. Finally, because of the characteristics of Riesling, it is proven to mature more gracefully than most other wines, getting more concentrated and complex with age.


Professional Recommendations


At the end of the day, we are drawn to every varietal for a different reason, but our fondness and appreciation for Riesling is obvious to anyone who spends five minutes with us. Now, what good sommeliers would we be if we didn’t have some recommendations for you? (Answer: Not good ones)


These are a few of our favorite producers with pricing included for our members:


  • 2015 Kuentz-Bas – Alsace – $16/bottle
  • 2016 St. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett – Mosel – $22/bottle
  • 2016 St. Urbans Hof ‘Urban’ – Mosel – $10/bottle
  • 2015 Brooks Dry Riesling – Willamette Valley, OR – $17/bottle
  • 2016 Dr. Konstantin Frank ‘Dry Riesling’ – Fingerlakes, NY – $15/bottle


“On the palate, Riesling is meant to move—to shimmer, to surge, to burst, to dance, to arc, to soar. Riesling has a rare trait- velocity. Of all varietals, it is the most kinetic and alive.” – Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil


Get out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Get addicted to the world of Riesling!