Low-alcohol rieslings are high on flavor 

Sweet surprise: The Bollig-Lehnert Riesling Kabinett has enticing mineral, honey and floral aromas. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Sweet surprise: The Bollig-Lehnert Riesling Kabinett has enticing mineral, honey and floral aromas.

Spring is a great time for riesling. Fava beans, pea shoots, black cod and creamy goat cheeses are just some of the things we can look forward to in greater abundance during the coming months, and all of these foods are fantastic with this noble grape variety.

Once cast off as a super-sweet wine that came in oddly shaped and strangely colored bottles, riesling has become much more accepted in the past decade.

Ten years ago, I had to twist my friends’ arms to join me in a glass, while today some of those same people are ecstatic when I open a bottle.  

Riesling is often fairly low in alcohol, with many not exceeding 10 percent. Not everyone sees this as a good thing, but in today’s wine world, where many wines exceed 14 percent, it is a breath of fresh air — especially in the warmer months.

High-acid yet fruity, the key to a riesling’s success is balance. Alcohol is part of this equation. Many rieslings have some residual sugar, but the acidity prevents them from seeming cloying on the palate. And more and more dry rieslings are coming our way, especially from Germany.

Today’s recommendations are all German. They are vibrant and superb right now, but they will age for several years if stored in a cool, dark place.

Schäfer Riesling Kabinett, Mettenheimer, 2011 (Rheinhessen, Germany): If you see “kabinett” on a German label, that means it is from the earliest-picked grapes of the highest designation, Prädikatswein, which used to be called QmP.

Unless “dry” or “trocken” is written on the label, you can assume it is slightly sweet. A delightful wine with peach and fresh pear flavors, a touch of residual sugar and a long, tangy finish, you might want to grab a couple of bottles. Suggested retail: $12

Loosen Bros. Riesling, 2008 (Mosel, Germany): This is a Qba-level wine — Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete, which is one step down from Prädikatswein but still must be produced in a singular region. Some of the best deals are finding Qba wines from great producers such as Loosen. Floral and minerally, it tastes of green apple fruit that leaves a thirst-quenching, tart sensation on the palate. Suggested retail: $13

Bollig-Lehnert Riesling Kabinett, Trittenheimer Apotheke, 2009 (Mosel, Germany): While others in the Mosel get more attention, Stefan Bollig goes about his business making some of the region’s best bargains.

This is a sensational riesling with enticing mineral, honey and floral aromas, and bright green apple fruit and melon tones on the palate. Suggested retail: Not available

Pamela Busch was the founding partner of Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bars, and is a wine educator and writer.

About The Author

Pamela S. Busch

Pamela Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com.
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