Riesling: L’Autre Vin Blanc
To many in the US, Rieslings represent a disturbing conundrum. The more novice among us are suspicious of their popularity, believing them to be overly sweet wines. Offer a Riesling to the wrong people, and they might even take offense, assuming you are trying to trick them into a wine that is strictly for the sauerbraten set. The good news is that it only takes one decent Riesling to open the mind and the palate. An ooh-la-la moment is sure to follow, and perhaps the bittersweet realization that the joke has been on them, since they have been missing out all this time. Les jeux sont faits!
The fact is, the grape itself has magnificent range, capable of producing glorious wines anywhere on the spectrum of dry to sweet, light to full bodied. In order to appreciate the versatility of Rieslings, however, one needs to taste a few of them, and a great place to start would be in Alsace, where a dry, graceful and well-balanced style is consistently produced. Rieslings are most at home in the limestone-rich soils and slightly cooler climates of Alsace, Germany and Austria.
Martin Schaetzel is something of a ringleader, producing 15 different Rieslings. His 2008 Ammerschwihr is young and firm, and despite its aromatics of apples, limes and buttered hazelnuts, it has an overall tart quality. It is the sort of wine that is so focused and concentrated that you quickly get the impression that it will be long lived and evolve well in the bottle (2008 was an excellent vintage). Martin Schaetzel’s vineyards benefit from biodynamically prepared earth (think beyond organic), and his winemaking philosophy is also consistent with a classic noninterventionist style. Many have noted his wine’s crystalline purity and depth. The Ammerschwihr is a forceful presence in the glass and will add a new dimension to your understanding of Riesling, l’autre vin blanc.
Try it with shellfish, poultry and pork, as well as all types of cheese, and if you want, Germans.
Available for US orders only at Fountainhead Wines, in Bedford Hills, New York,
(+1) 914-244-8973; approximate retail price: $22.
Editor’s note: Food and wine lovers heading to Paris might want to try one of the Girls’ Guide’s favorite cooking classes.