The last time German wine was fashionable in this country it went by an American name: Blue Nun. Now, some three decades later, German wine sales are dependent on a different name: Riesling. Or as Ernst Loosen, a young star winemaker from the Mosel, told me, "The only reason German wine is selling today is because it's made from Riesling."
While it may lack the mass appeal of Chardonnay, there's no question that right now, Riesling is hot. In fact, it's become the Archetypal Anti-Chardonnay, a wine whose woodlessness is considered a great virtue, along with its ripe fruit flavors and palate-cleansing acidity. Such food-friendly qualities have made it a particular favorite of sommeliers. Indeed, some have gone a bit Riesling-mad; I recently witnessed a woman drinking Riesling with steak--the wine chosen by the restaurant's sommelier.
Such awkward combinations aside, the only catch to this otherwise happy tale of Riesling's revival is that it hasn't brought about a bigger appreciation of German wine. While Australian and Austrian Rieslings do well (the latter at pretty high prices) and Rieslings from Washington State and New York's Finger Lakes are considered good value, German Rieslings still have a long way to go.