They say when you begin to appreciate wine, it usually starts with a glass of Riesling.
There’s nothing like sipping from a glass of wine and having your entire mouth filled with the flavors of ripe peach and nectarine. Combine this with a sweet texture that quickly changes to a zesty zing from the acid … I can remember my first glass of Mosel Riesling like it was yesterday. I also remember feeling foolishly confident with my knowledge of Rieslings after this glass. Going to the store a few days later in search of the same holy grail of flavors, only to be met with complete confusion as I stared at the bottles. My confusion grew more as I went home that night and encountered a completely different flavor after my first sip! So this same mistake doesn’t happen to you, I’ve created a quick guide to help you navigate through the German code commonly displayed on Riesling bottles from Deutschland.
How sweet is this Riesling going to be?
Rieslings from Germany cross the entire spectrum of sweet. From “Bone Dry” to wine destined for dessert. The Prädikat system is a great indication of how sweet your wine is likely going to be, keep an eye out for these terms on your next bottle.
Kabinett & Spätlese (Late-Harvest): Semi-sweet examples of Riesling, pair perfectly with moderately spicy food.
Auslese & Beerenauslese: Sweet examples of Riesling, pair these wines with a rich dish like Foie Gras.
Trockenbeerenauslese & Eiswein: Incredibly sweet and rare examples. Only created in years when the weather permits. These wines should be consumed alone or with a simple cheese plate.
Other terms you’re likely to see on a German wine bottle
Trocken: Bone-Dry, you can expect a wine with the Trocken term emblazoned on the label to lack any sweetness. This style of Riesling goes great with seafood.
V.D.P.: This symbol represents an organization of wine makers who strive to make the highest quality wine from Germany. Some of the greatest producers in Germany are members, so keep an eye out.
G.G.: These two letters are placed on bottles of dry Grand Cru level wine. Only V.D.P members who are making dry wine from the best vineyards of Germany are allowed to use these letters.
Ürzig Würzgarten: This is just an example of what you might see on a label of Riesling. Ürzig is the name of the village the vineyard is located in, while Würzgarten is the name of the vineyard. This style of labeling the village and vineyard is similar the labels of Burgundy France.
Germany’s three main regions for quality Riesling
Mosel: Viticulture in the Mosel is dependent on the Mosel River. This river not only brings extra warmth from reflected sunlight, but also helped carve the slate-enriched mountains that harbor the vineyards. Mosel Riesling is defined by a piercing acidic structure that is complemented with just-ripe stone fruits.
Rheingau: Just like the Mosel wine region, the Rheingau Riesling relies on the warmth from the Rheingau River to help reach adequate ripeness levels. Rheingau Rieslings are the most floral and smooth of the three main regions. These wines tend to be off-dry with the least amount of acidity.
Pfalz: The warmest region for great Riesling. Wines from this area tend to be dry, higher in alcohol and display fruits very similar to Alsace, France.
Thankfully, enthusiasm for quality Riesling is only becoming stronger. Now it’s not uncommon to see Sommeliers dedicating an entire page of their wine list to this enchanting varietal. Next time you’re out for dinner and feeling adventurous, try a Trocken Riesling from the Pfalz instead of the classic Chablis and see how it transforms your meal.
Looking to explore the world of Riesling in Orange County?
AnQi – House of An in Costa Mesa has an impressive selection of Rieslings within their award-winning wine list. It should be no surprise that Riesling is the perfect pairing to An’s Vietnamese-influenced cuisine.