Back in the spotlight, Riesling is regaining respect for its sprightly acidic, sweet, and perfect-for-food-pairing German styles. Wine directors totally cherish the German varietal and are proudly bringing it back to stake its claim.
This stuff has been typecast as a flat and overly sweet juice only pressed for the purchase of novice drinkers. One of the reasons non wine-drinkers don’t taste Riesling’s potential is because they are drinking it alone. Yeah, it tastes sweet – but that sweetness is what makes Riesling beg for food. The grape’s acid balance is tough enough to rein residual sugar in, producing a wine that's super complex and perfect for pairing. Don’t drink it alone - try it with some tasty company.
The Germans’ funky range can suit just about anyone. These are great juices to have fun with – give them a break and let 'em breathe. There are various bottle personalities perfect for everyday quaffing and pairing needs. Love them for what they are: sweet, versatile, totally age-able, affordable, wildly terrior-expressive and super animated. We help crack the sugar code below by comparing the Riesling's residual sugar and flavor profile to the sweetness of the desserts below. Everyone likes dessert, right?
Let’s start simple: Kabinett [Kahb-in-ET], the most popular German style in the U.S., has an off-dry, fruity form combined with high acid content. With green fruit notes (think apple and pear), this expression is lower in alcohol, light-bodied, and offers just a shy bit of sweetness. Kabinetts, like so many hobos, are often drunk just by themselves, meaning they won’t essentially add much dimension to your food. When you think of a Kabinett, imagine the simplicity and lightness of a cream puff.
Spatlese [SHPATE-lay-seh] Riesling has a bit more body and possesses more citrus and exotic fruit (think lemon, lime, pineapple). Even though a late harvest wine, they are not sweet like dessert wines. Spatleses are appealing expressions of German Reislings because they produce good value at honest prices. These are a treat to enjoy by themselves but will also stand up to and complement richer food. Think of Spatlese and expect balanced sweetness and acid, like a key lime pie.
Auslese [OUSE-lay-seh] Riesling is the sexier sister. With even more body and reeking of exotic fruit like apricot, pineapple, and mango, most Ausleses are medium-sweet to sweet, have an intense boquet, and are smartly well balanced. Classic and elegant dryer styles (called Trocken) of Auslese are also great finds and are similar in elegance to France’s Alsatian Grand Cru Rieslings. The grapes picked for this classification are carefully chosen from super-ripe, hand selected bunches, and they often have hints of botrytis [boh-TRY-tis], also called "noble rot."Botrytis, a mold that causes a partial drying of the grape on the vine, is an important part of the production of many classic sweet wines as it increases a grape's sugar-to-water ratio. Just like an Auslese, a fruity clafoutis is silky, sexy, and elegant.
Beerenauslese [deep breath: Buh-air-en OWS-lay-zuh] wines are considered dessert wines and are fully affected by botrytis. Beerenauslese have a lower alcohol content than Auslese. Light and medium in body, they have a high acid content that balances the remarkably rich sweetness of the wine. These are beautiful by themselves or paired with desserts. Sweet and fruity Beerenauslese is compared to a saucy, tenderly warm fruit pie.
Trockenbeerenauslese [deeper breath: TROH-ken-buh-air-en OWS-lay-zuh], also known as "TBA," is also classified as a dessert wine – an extremely luscious, rich, and nectar-like manifestation. TBA’s are made from carefully selected, overripe, and botrytis-shriveled grapes. The word "Trocken" means "dry" in German, but don't let that confuse you; it refers to the grapes being dried on the vine rather than the wine being an actual dry wine. Essentially this is a Riesling made from almost raisins. A sticky, no-nonsense, and indulgent dessert like a sticky-sweet honey bun cake depicts a deep, candied TBA.
Eiswein [ICE-vine] or simply, “ice wine,” is the uniquely covetable style of wine started by freezing the grapes on the vine. The grapes are crushed while still frozen, leaving a brilliant and concentrated grape syrup. The highly respected balance of acid and sugar makes this an extraordinary drink. A milkshake’s sweet complexion balanced with a deep chocolate bite is equated to the admirability of Eiswein – you can’t go wrong with either frozen choice.