New life for riesling
Blog: Winemaker's Journal
October 28, 2011
Washington first made its mark in wine in the 1980s with Riesling, that German-bred wine that can be found in so many styles.
Riesling is still Washington's most produced grape, accounting for about 16 percent of its total winegrape acreage. Washington also produces more Riesling than any other state, including California. Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington's largest wine producer by far, is the world's largest single producer of Riesling.
What many people don't know is how versatile the grape is. While some folks love the sweeter Riesling styles that can be found everywhere, fewer are familiar with the dry side.
Depending on how and where it's grown and fermentation and storage techniques, Riesling styles can vary immensely in flavor, bouquet and sweetness from very dry, even lemony, to floral honey-kissed sweetness. A Riesling can be matched with almost any meal from spicy Asian and Mexican to subtle shellfish and chicken dishes.
Most wineries will give some indication of sweet to dry on its label. Dry German Riesling is usually designated "trocken" while sweet is "lieblich"or "suss." A dry wine would generally have almost no residual sweetness. Two percent or around 20 grams/liter residual sugar would be much sweeter. Sweeter wines go better with spicy foods. Drier are better matched with more subtle dishes.
Probably not well suited for red meat, Riesling always makes a great aperitif before hand. Dry Riesling has become one of my favorites for that after-work drink with cheese, especially blue cheese, and crackers.
Ste. Michelle produces Riesling in nine different styles. Many — including its famed Eroica Riesling — are made from grapes grown near Chelan and Quincy. Tsillan Cellars and Jones of Washington both sell some of their Riesling tonnage to Ste. Michelle for that wine.
Pacific Rim, another large Washington winery, makes only Riesling, in 10 different styles. Most are made from Columbia Valley grapes. Many fine Rieslings can be had from local wineries, and why not, this is where the best grapes grow.
Riesling is truly one of the state's signature wines, and many can be found at bargain prices under $10.