Riesling is a grape you either love to love or love to hate. Those who love Riesling appreciate it for its pronounced aromatics and food-friendliness. Sweeter style Rieslings make a perfect accompaniment to spicy dishes, such as Asian foods. The often overlooked drier styles of Riesling pair well with light meats and fish.
The most common response Sommeliers hear when they ask a customer if they like Riesling is, “No. I don’t like sweet wines.” It’s true that Riesling is often vinified to leave residual sugar. This practice is integral to balancing the high acid of the grape, especially when grown in cooler climates. However, there are many examples of dry Riesling wines that may just change your mind about the grape.
How to Find A Dry Riesling
When looking for a drier style Riesling, look for one with moderate levels of alcohol (e.g. 11% ABV and above). An ABV of 9%, for example, usually indicates that not all the sugars were converting into alcohol, leaving some leftover in the form of residual sugar. Beyond just alcohol level, there are a few regions that specialize in making dry Riesling in particular:
- Alsace, France: This tiny French region is obsessed with Dry Riesling and has 51 Grand Cru vineyards, making some of the most coveted dry Riesling wines in the world.
- Niederösterrich, Austria: Riesling is ubiquitous in Austria, though often over-shadowed by the proficiently grown, Grüner Veltliner grape. Austrians favor drier styles of Riesling. Although not always easy to find world-wide, award-winning dry Rieslings from the regions of Kremstal, Kamptal and Wachau are particularly worth seeking out.
- South Australia: Clare and Eden Valleys in South Australia make lean, lime-driven Rieslings that when aged, gain smoky, diesel-like notes.
- Washington, New York, British Columbia and Niagara Escarpment: For North American dry Riesling you’ll find these northern latitude regions leading the way with exceptional quality Riesling wines. For the most part, look for wines labeled “dry” on the label.
- Germany: The word “Trocken” on the label means “dry” and you’ll find a great number of the driest styles coming from the Rheingau and Pfalz regions. Additionally, wineries that are part of the VDP classification system are often made in drier styles, you can read more about VDP here.