Ready to rethink Riesling? Repeat after me: it was just a misunderstanding.

By Betty Gold
August 08, 2019
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We’ll just get the elephant out of the room right here, right now: you think Riesling is an overly sweet, vapid, easy-drinking wine without much clout or character. I get it. There are plenty of bottles of Riesling (and every other type of wine) out there that might match this description, however this varietal deserves far more recognition. It’s aromatic, vibrant, and has a highly acidic, fruity-floral flavor profile. Not to mention the fact that it’s captured the hearts of some of the world’s top wine connoisseurs.

In an effort to right all these wrongs, we spoke with David Rosenthal, white winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle. He debunks the top five myths and misconceptions about Riesling for us—and sheds light on why you should start sipping some right now.

Myth: Riesling is for novice drinkers.

Truth: Riesling is a very approachable wine for new wine drinkers because of its fresh, crisp profile. However, Riesling is also a darling of the sommelier and wine collector community because of its versatility, friendliness with food, and its ability to age. "Riesling is complex, it is seductive, and when it is well made, it tells a story about the place and time it was grown in a way most other grapes cannot," Rosenthal adds.

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Myth: All Rieslings are sweet.

Truth: "Riesling is one of the most noble of all white grapes because it can be produced in a range of styles, from bone dry to decadently sweet," says Rosenthal. It all depends on where the grapes were grown and how they were bottled. Riesling was born in the Rhine region of Germany but is grown all over the world today—particularly in Washington, California, Alsace, Austria, and the Finger Lakes region of New York. Each has its own personality and range of aromas.

“Even within Chateau Ste. Michelle, we produce a full range of Rieslings. Each style is unique and it offers consumers a variety of options to find a wine that matches their personal taste and pair with the perfect occasion or cuisine,” Rosenthal says. If you like dry, crisp white wine, try this dry Riesling; if you prefer sweeter varietals, go for this bottle instead.

Myth: Riesling only pairs well with dessert.

Truth: Riesling is one of the most food-friendly wines around. Its hint of sweetness and crisp acidity make it so versatile with a wide variety of foods. "Riesling pairs well with seafood, and can stand up to dishes with spice like Asian cuisine and Indian curries." Pair an off-dry Riesling with your favorite Indian take-out. You will not be disappointed.

When it comes to desserts, the key to pairing wine is to make sure the wine is sweeter than the dessert. Riesling dessert wines such as Late Harvest wines, will pair well with dishes like strawberry short cake or crème brulee. However, most Rieslings are not sweet enough to pair with dessert and are better off paired with cheese (or drunk on their own) if the preference is to have them at the end of the meal.

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Myth: Expensive is better.

Truth: The wine aisle in your local store is an international marketplace and bad wines simply can’t compete, regardless of price. That means most wines on the market are well made and the consumer just has to find wines that fit their taste. "Another great thing about Riesling is that it is incredibly affordable with world-class wines being available for under $20," adds Rosenthal. Exhibit A: this $9 bottle.

Myth: Sweetness and fruitiness are the same.

Truth: Sweetness refers to the perception of sugar in the wine. Fruitiness is perception of fruit flavors and aromas. Riesling is a very fruity wine with flavors and aromas of peach, apricot, white flowers, and citrus. Many wine drinkers associate the fruit flavors with sweetness, even if the wine is not sweet. One of the great attributes of Riesling is that it can taste fruity and decadent without necessarily being sweet.

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