[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]
Consider this less of a blog post and more of a public service announcement. If you’re going to remember a single message out of everything I’ve ever written about wine, make it this little piece of advice: DO NOT BE AFRAID OF GERMAN RIESLING. I wish I could tell you that this was self-evident information, but there remains this persistent and lingering seed of doubt planted deep in the brains of casual wine drinkers in North America irrationally warning them that German wine in general, and German Riesling in particular, is something to be wary of. Even (or rather, especially) people who haven’t tried it tend to avoid it, looking askance at its tall tapered bottles and Gothic multisyllabic labels, spouting the well-worn syllogism: ”I don’t like sweet wines. German Riesling is sweet. Therefore, I don’t like German Riesling.” Most people who say this probably don’t realize that:
1. NOT all German Riesling is sweet — in fact, there has been a concerted movement towards drier (“Trocken”) styles of wine in Germany over the past decade or so; and
2. Even sweeter German Riesling isn’t sweet like other wines are sweet. To me, the best expressions of Riesling are those where there is a little residual sugar left in the wine after fermentation, because that hint of sweetness is a necessary counterpart to the firestorm of acidity usually present in good German wines. The delicate razor’s-edge dance between sweet and tart is the very essence of what German Riesling is all about, and to dismiss a key component of that ballet as something akin to what you find in a $6 bottle of insipid white Zinfandel is to do both yourself and these amazing wines a disservice. Most people who say they don’t like “sweet wines” actually don’t like UNBALANCED sweet wines, wines with a bunch of leftover sugar and nothing else to level it out. German Riesling is the antithesis of these kinds of bottles, and the best illustration that not all “sweet” wines are created equal.
If you get past the stereotypes and try a bottle of German Riesling for yourself, I predict you will quickly fall in love; to me they are the most individual, remarkable and memorable wines in the world. And the best part about joining the German Riesling Revolution is that the wines usually offer remarkable levels of quality for a bargain price. Many top producers make entry-level bottles that are widely available for under $20 CDN, some of the most impressive of which come from the well-known Mosel Valley winery of St. Urbans-Hof, instantly recognizable for its striking black and copper label design (see the bottle pics below). Last Thursday, a lucky few of us attended at the Crowfoot location of Co-op Wine & Spirits to hear Urbans-Hof owner and winemaker Nik Weis talk about his property and share a half-dozen of his recent wines.