I know, I know…some of you despise sweet wine. It’s especially hard to take it seriously if you guzzled Blue Nun during sorority-fraternity swaps in the 1970s—the heyday for sweet wine in funny looking bottles.
“The times they are a changing,” as the legendary Bob Dylan told us boomers as we were getting close to legal drinking age, although I don’t think he was talking about alcohol.
The times certainly have changed for Riesling, the perfect summer wine that has grown more fashionable. This noble grape produces not only sweet wines from Germany, like Auslese, but also bone dry wines from France’s Alsace region and juicy, dry wines from Northwest America. In fact, Washington state has led a resurgence of the Riesling grape with growers producing 44,100 tons in the 2015 harvest. Total Riesling production has grown 39 percent since 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And no wonder—Riesling is one of the most food friendly wines available. Dry Rieslings are excellent with Florida’s shellfish menus, and sweet Rieslings are a perfect match for salty blue cheeses. My favorite pairings for medium-dry Rieslings include spicy Asian or Thai foods.
Food isn’t always required for a Riesling-like it is with other varietals. If a Riesling is well-balanced with a touch of acidity, it makes a perfect sipping wine on a hot, summer evening. The alcohol content is usually lower in medium-dry and medium-sweet Rieslings—even lower than a craft beer—so go ahead and enjoy that second glass before dinner.
With all those Riesling flavors, how do you find the one you want? The International Riesling Foundation has developed a taste profile that is usually printed on the back label of Riesling bottles. Many wine merchants also use the label in displays. And if you are still not sure, buy a couple and taste them side-by-side. After all, Rieslings are one of the most economical wines you’ll find—a sweet benefit for the wine often described as “sunshine in a glass.”