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  • Theresa Downs

Riesling Wine Has An Undeserved Bad Rap


Here's a riddle to chase those winter/spring blues away: what's white, refreshingly zesty with zingy acidity, pairs great with food, and has one of the worst reputations in the wine world? It's Riesling! Riesling is one of the world's greatest wines and one of the most misunderstood and unappreciated. Ask the average Joe or Josephine what they think of Riesling, and they will invariably state that "it's too sweet. That's so wrong! Riesling is fresh with big acidity (which makes it so easy to pair with many different foods), strong aromas, and citrus flavors.   But just like noxious odors, bad reputations linger long after the event that caused the problem.

The Past – Riesling Wine Reputation

Riesling's reputation took a big, bad hit after the 1980s, and the cause can be summed up in two words…Blue Nun. Blue Nun was a mass-produced German Riesling blend that became wildly popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Easy to drink with easily understood wine labels, its popularity ushered in a plethora of cheap, sweet Rieslings. Blue Nun was the white wine of choice until it wasn't.   Tastes changed, and Blue Nun became scorned as too cloying and unsophisticated. And Riesling along with it.

Today - Riesling Wine Rediscovered!

I couldn't understand why so many wine drinkers in 2024 still thought of Riesling as sweet, as now many remarkable dry Riesling wines are made in the United States.   I headed to the local grocery stores and discovered that the Riesling offerings there are mostly dismally sweet with unpleasant aftertastes. So, I researched and came up with a list of Rieslings that are delightfully trocken (dry), reasonably priced, and can be purchased in a grocery store (Safeway) or a big box wine store, such as Total Wine. There are a lot of sweet Riesling wines out there. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place (and food) for sweet Riesling wine, but it should be the exception and not the rule.

Is it Dry or Sweet?

There are some ways to tell from a wine label if the Riesling is dry or sweet:

·         The label will state whether it's a dry or sweet Riesling wine.

·          A graph on the back of the label will point to the sweetness level of the wine.

·         The alcohol content (ABV – alcohol by volume) will indicate whether the wine is sweet.

Any ABV listed 12% or more means that all grape sugar has been fermented into alcohol, and the wine will be dry. Sweet wines are less alcoholic because the fermentation process is stopped before all sugars can be converted into alcohol.

Riesling Grocery List

Retails for about $12.00 and is available in Safeway stores

It is a nice wine, dry with pear and lemon/lime notes, a touch of petrol,

and a good introduction to those who have not experienced Riesling. 

It retails for about $12.50 and is very nice.

This wine has more minerality with a touch of slate/stone. Also, the wine is from the

Mosel in Germany, the birthplace of Riesling. It is available online or in Total Wine stores.

It retails for about $13.99 and is available at Total Wine. This is another wine that hails from the Mosel in Germany. Light, with zingy acid, this wine has apple and stone fruit notes. Totally enjoyable by itself or with cheese snacks.

Available through Total Wine.

This wine retails for about $19.99 and is available online and in Total Wine stores. 

My favorite of the bunch, this wine is from another superb location for Riesling, Alsace,

France. Rich, with a nice zing and notes of apple, pear, honey (lots of honey), peach, and

apricot, it hits the right note.  

The Best

The best Riesling wines are from Germany and France, but the United States, particularly Oregon and the Finger Lake region in New York, also produce memorable Riesling. Check out  Best Riesling Types Guide to learn more about this phenomenal wine. And stay tuned for more upcoming blogs about Riesling.

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