Never tried a glass of Riesling? You would not be alone as they have a reputation for being on the saccharine side. This is true as the sweetness is needed to balance this varietals high acidity,
but winemakers have been developing fruity, dry versions that have changed the public perception of this wine. Riesling is also overshadowed by its more well known white cousins, particularly Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, which tend to dominate the shelves, so it is unfortunately often overlooked. But don’t let this put you off - wine lovers the world over have long thought of this varietal as an underrated classic. Let’s start by looking at where the grape comes from, what you can expect from a glass, and what foods to pair with Riesling.
Where is Riesling from? The Riesling grape is thought to have originated in Germany’s Rhine River region around 1435 - and is strongly associated with the Alsace wine region, with some of the best Rieslings reputed to come from along the Mosel River. Another area with strong ties to Riesling is just across the border in neighbouring Austria’s Danube region. Riesling grapes arrived on Australian shores around 1838, where it was first planted near Penrith of all places. Today the grape has been adopted by a variety of regional winemakers, with producers in South Australia - particularly the Clare Valley and Barossa’s Eden Valley - leading the way, though you can also find the grape in Victoria (the Grampians), Western Australia and Tasmania.
What can I expect from a glass of Riesling? Now onto the important stuff - what you can expect on the palate from Riesling? Definitely fruity, citrus aromas with high acidity levels. In terms of sweetness remember there are a wide range of Riesling styles, from dry, to off-dry, and sweet. It all depends where it is from and how it was fermented. Traditionally, Riesling has been fermented in oak barrels to round the wine's acidity and add depth and complexity, but a move to stainless-steel has given modern versions a cleaner freshness.
What foods can I pair Riesling with? When it comes time to food pairing, the lemon citrus notes of Riesling are ideal for shellfish dishes like oysters, shell-on prawns, fresh crab and simply grilled fish - which all have clean, fresh flavours. Also, you won't be disappointed if you have a glass with Asian foods, where the grape’s sweetness and acidity help to cut through any oiliness in these dishes. Riesling also pairs well with milder cheeses, dried fruit, roasted vegetables as well as pork and chicken.
What temperature should I serve Riesling at? In terms of the ideal serving temperature for Riesling, look to store it in the fridge - which should be as close to 6 degrees celsius as possible.