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Apr 20

My Thanks … and a Little About Riesling

My huge thanks to everyone who came out to my “Hot Chicks” tasting this weekend. It was great talking to all of you and of course, thanks so much for reading!

I was amused that with a selection of female winemakers and hot chicks on labels, it was the hot chicks on the labels  – both from Washington state – that won the day. I would say that my top seller was probably the Kung Fu Girl Riesling, followed by the Airfield Estates Bombshell Red. The lovely pink Domain Carneros Cuvee, named for Madame de Pompadour, was also fairly popular (albeit a little more expensive).

The Washington riesling seemed to be a surprise to everyone. It is a fruit-forward, bright riesling, but it’s not overly sweet. That said, so many people were afraid to try it, convinced that all rieslings are sugary syrupy things. So let’s clear that up a little.

I blame Blue Nun for the sugary, syrup reputation that riesling seems to have. Now, when a riesling comes from some where other than Germany, you’re a little hard pressed to identify how dry it might be. Cross your fingers that they mention it in the label description. But those Germans? They’re helpful when it comes to identifying the sweetness in your glass.

You’ll notice three words attached to the German wines – Kabinett, Auslese, and Spätlese. The highest quality wine category in Germany is QmP, and it is divided into subcategories.

Kabinett wines must contain minimum amounts of natural sugar (around 17-21% sugar by weight), depending on the region and the variety. These are the lowest minimums for QmP wines, and these wines are therefore usually the driest and least expensive.

Spätlese is German for “late picking.” It refers to grapes that are selectively picked at least 7 days after the main harvest. Because such fruit is riper than the grapes from the main harvest, it contains more sugar and produces wines that are rich and sweet. The natural sugar must attain around 19-23% sugar by weight.

Auslese is German for “selection,” used to describe specially selected grapes that are hand-picked and pressed separately from other grapes. The natural sugar content of the grapes must reach around 20-25% sugar by weight. Auslese grapes are sometimes subject to botrytis (the noble rot, so to speak) to make them sweeter.

I know it’s hard to remember. I’m working on some sort of mnemonic that will make it easier.

Another tip with rieslings? Don’t drink them too cold. Really, this applies to most whites. Yes, you should chill them. But if you over-chill, you’re missing out. They always warm up a little and bloom with flavor. So keep that in mind with whatever riesling you’re drinking – your refrigerator might just be a little too chilled for the right flavors to emerge.

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Posted by Michelle at 7:54 am in Knowledge, Tastings | Permalink | Comments (3)

3 Responses to “My Thanks … and a Little About Riesling”

  1. Seagal says:

    Helps me remember

  2. Amen Michelle! I’m constantly defending riesling because people make the assumption that it’s always sweet. Great to see you helping the cause. I have a hard time remembering the levels myself sometime, and don’t have any easy way to remember other than memorizing…then again you could alway go for the berenauslese, eiswein, and trockenberenauslese to make things a little more confusing 😉 Those actually do help me to remember that Auslese is the last of the first three though!

  3. NicoRiesling says:

    I am the winemaker at Pacific Rim and we specialize in Riesling. We now have 10 different styles in the portfolio and believe me this varietal is fascinating – so versatile and so fun to work with. Spread the Riesling gospel!


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