Riesling's Rise

Not a big fan of this white wine? Six that will change your mind.


At last summer's Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colo., Best Cellars co-founder Joshua Wesson declared at one of his packed-house seminars, "If I was shipwrecked on a desert island and could only have one wine, it would be a riesling."

While many sommeliers give these classic whites a definitive thumbs-up, many average wine drinkers — maybe even you — often dismiss them as uniformly too sweet, sometimes cloyingly so. But with drier rieslings growing in profile and availability in the U.S., wine experts say it's time you take a second look.

"If you're willing to take a half-step toward the grape, an unbelievable world will open up before you," promises Paul Grieco, co-owner of New York's Hearth restaurant and Terroir wine bars and one of riesling's foremost evangelists.

You can drink a riesling right away for fresh, fruit-forward flavor or aged. "It becomes extremely complex as it ages," says master sommelier Carlton McCoy, wine director at the Little Nell in Aspen. "It gets rounder on the edges, and the sugar becomes a little more integrated."

Still wondering whether to pop open a bottle? Says Grieco, who takes a decidedly populist approach to wine education: "The measure of greatness in a wine is that one sip leads to a second sip, one glass leads to a second glass, one bottle leads to a second bottle. Riesling always keeps you coming back for more."

The experts say any of these six rieslings will make you take that second sip.

Magdalena Vineyard Riesling Dry 2012
$36/750 mL

Because the cool climate of New York's Finger Lakes region favors the riesling grape, the area is something of a hot spot for producing riesling wines. This "super-elegant" wine is made in an Old World style, says McCoy. "It tastes almost like a Rhine riesling from Germany." No surprise, perhaps, since winery founder Wiemer emigrated from Germany in the 1960s. wiemer.com


Eins Zwei Dry Riesling 2013
$16/750 mL

Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland ‘Hinterhaus' Riesling Trocken 2012
$33/750 mL

Based in the heart of Germany's riesling country, the Rhinegau, Leitz turns out "majestically styled" wines, says Grieco. "If you are into premier cru or grand cru in white Burgundies, you have to try one of these rieslings." For value, he recommends the Eins Zwei Dry: "pure, clean, and focused, with crunchy minerality." The powerful Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland lies on the other end of the spectrum. "If the Eins Zwei Dry is your Rice Krispies, then this is the Frosted Flakes. It roars like a frickin' tiger!" leitz-wein.de

Traditionale Dry Riesling 2013
$22/750 mL

Australian riesling is the "perfect summer wine," says master sommelier Emily Wines, the San Francisco-based wine director for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. But don't expect silky and light. This winery in Australia's Clare Valley produces one that is "so focused and intense, it's like a laser beam of wine." With notes of green apple and lime and a medium-plus alcohol level, the wine is "a little more full-bodied than you might expect from a drier riesling. It's not a shy wine; you know it's in your mouth." pikeswines.com.au

Riesling 2011
$26/750 mL

Grieco, who considers rieslings from Down Under to be "über, über bone dry," calls the offering from this family-owned producer in New Zealand's central Otago region "genius." As for the finish, "this wine goes on, and on, and on, sort of like Bertolucci's Novecento. You'll enjoy every one of the 317 minutes." rippon.co.nz

Riesling Tradition 2011
$55/750 mL

"People automatically think of Germany and Alsace for riesling, but they don't always think of Austria," says Wines. This offering has a bright acidity, plus notes of green apple, pear, and peppery overtones that evoke asparagus or arugula. "There's a real minerality. You can almost taste wet stone or river rock in it." gobelsburg.at/en/

Good to Know

Riesling pairs exceptionally well with most foods; its slight sweetness often masks its high acid content, says master sommelier Emily Wines. "That acid cuts through any kind of richness and acts as a palate cleanser, refreshing your mouth for the next bite."

Add your comment


It appears you are using an older web browser! While using our site, you may encounter some trouble along the way. For PC users, we recommend upgrading to the latest version of Internet Explorer or Firefox. For Mac users, we recommend the latest version of Safari or Firefox.