Once again, the Summer of Riesling is making a splash in Boston. For those new to riesling, the event offers a chance to sample these white wines in shops and restaurants. For enthusiasts — “acidhounds” if you’re an insider — it means 94 days to fete their favorite grape.
Founded in 2008, the first Summer of Riesling, the brainchild of sommelier and restaurateur Paul Grieco, was held at Terroir Wine Bar in New York’s East Village. Riesling was the only white wine served by the glass. No chardonnay. No sauvignon blanc. Just riesling. Grieco’s gamble paid off. Now with the support of the International Riesling Foundation and five other wine trade associations, the national campaign keeps growing.
In Boston, riesling enthusiasts can look forward to wines with vivid, mouthwatering acidity that reflects the noble grape from which they are made. One would be hard-pressed to think of a grape capable of more stylistic diversity. These wines can express every gradation of sweetness or be completely dry. Pour some in your glass and inhale aromas like green apples, lime, honey, slate, and a touch of petrol. (Subtle scents of fossil fuel might surprise the novice but are altogether tantalizing to fans of riesling.)
And, oh the acidity! Like a refreshing squeeze of citrus to perk up a dish, acidity provides a counterpoint to any residual sugar left in the wine. It also provides structure to stand up to foods not normally paired with white wines. On a recent evening, a glass of dry riesling worked beautifully with lamb infused with Middle Eastern spices and braised greens. On another occasion, a sweeter style proved a lovely pairing with spicy Thai-inspired peanut noodles.
While riesling is grown in a wide array of New and Old World locales, we began our tasting in Germany, riesling’s homeland. Examples from the Mosel and Rheingau — river-hugging regions known for pure expressions of the grape — range from sweet to dry. Tasting these wines brings to mind the long-held notion that all German rieslings are sweet.
Many do fit that description, but an increasing number on wine shop shelves are dry (“trocken”). Because ascending ripeness levels — kabinett, spätlese, auslese — don’t necessarily correlate with the level of sweetness in the finished wine, knowledgeable wine shop staff are your best resource for navigating selections.
After tasting through the German rieslings, we wandered over the border into Alsace, France. Sheltered by the Vosges mountains and enjoying a long, dry growing season, riesling achieves greatness here. We love the concentrated aromatics and rich palate character of these wines. Think you can’t afford a high-end riesling to drink with Sunday dinner? We found one from Alsace, a Willm Estate grand cru that we know you’ll
Riesling is too good to be confined to the warm months. Sip these wines year-round.
Züm Mosel Riesling 2011 Fruity notes of peach and lime balanced with admirable acidity. Simply refreshing in an off-dry (slightly sweet) style. Around $12. At TerraVino, Brookline, 617-232-1180; Olde Towne Liquors, Burlington, 781-272-1120.
Allendorf Rheingau Winkeler Hasensprung Riesling Kabinett 2009 Green apple and lime notes undergirded by emphatic acidity and cool slate minerality. Lovely in weight and off-dry. Around $15. At The Wine Bottega, North End, 617-227-6607; Wines & More, Mansfield, 508-339-6900.
Leitz “Eins Zwei Dry” Rheingau Riesling Trocken 2011 Aromas of slate, stone fruit, and lime leaf with zippy, tingling acidity. A stellar dry wine for food or for sipping. Around $16. At Dave’s Fresh Pasta, Somerville, 617-623-0867; D & L Liquors, Waltham, 781-894-1907.
Schloss Schönborn Rheingau Estate Riesling Dry 2010
A touch of petrol and white flowers on the nose. Tart green apple and lemon supported by mouthwatering acidity. Crisp and dry with a saline finish. Around $20. At Ball Square Fine Wine & Liquors, Somerville, 617-623-9500; Federal Wine & Spirits, Boston, 617-367-8605.
Marcel Hugg “Reserve Saint Jean” Alsace Riesling 2010 Tart green apple and lemon rind with ample yet precise acidity and beautiful minerality. Around $15. At Berman’s Wine & Spirits, Lexington, 781-862-0515; The Wine Emporium, South End, 617-262-0379.
Willm Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr Alsace Riesling 2008 Sophisticated, mature aromas of slate, petrol, green apple, and baked pineapple. Exquisitely well-balanced with tart green apple and lemon notes. Attractive saline finish. Around $20. At Berman’s Wine & Spirits; Ralph’s Derby St. Wine & Spirits, Hingham, 781-749-9463.