The WINE jury may be out as to whether Germany’s trophy grape will ever rival sauvignon blanc, but riesling’s crisp, natural acidity with no oak influence has plenty to offer vino lovers thirsty for a light, summer sipper.
From Old World to New World, from sweet to dry, the distinctive, slim bottle shape signals a lower-than-average alcohol level, but with the power to partner spicy curries, stir-fries, seafood and sushi.
Note to foodies: if you’re blessed with the palate of an angel, the sweetest will also stand up to fruity desserts, delicate puddings, or an artisan piece of white chocolate for those guilty-pleasure moments.
The Mosel Valley, Germany offers rich pickings for riesling fans, or newcomers to this noble white grape. Famed for its world class riesling, they can vary from sweet and floral with a honey edge, to bright and racy with hints of peach and plum. Try Dr L Riesling 2010 (£5.79, 8.5%, Sainsbury’s). Beautifully balanced and off-dry, it’s a delicious fruit salad with juicy acidity, a streak of minerality and slight fizz.
Or for a new-wave German riesling from the slaty Saar Valley soils, try Saar Riesling, Van Volxem 2009 (£15.85, 11.5%, www.bbr.com). Dry and steely with a slight fizz and good acidity, this apricot gem shows fantastic depth of flavour with a hint of spice on the long finish.
The Alsace wine route stretches along vine-covered hills on the west bank of the Rhine river, and this precious white grape thrives in the near-perfect conditions. For a fairweather sparkler, try Finest Cremant d’Alsace Riesling (£8.99, 11.5%, Tesco). Heady and full-bodied with a creamy mousse, stone fruit flavours and a limey, crisp finish - pair this lovely sparkler with bleu de Severac cheese which really enhances the taste.
Chile likes to turn its hand to most grapes, and riesling is on the rise in the cool climate San Antonio Valley. Try Vina Leyda Reserva 2008 (£9.99, 12.5%, www.virginwines.co.uk). Dry with a hint of fizz, the grapefruit really shines through with good mineral notes and well-balanced acidity.
Further inland, Cono Sur winery has a delicious offering from the Colchagua Valley. Try Cono Sur Reserva Riesling 2009 (£8.99, 13.4%, Tesco). Off-dry and minerally with plenty of mandarin, a hint of white blossom, dash of lime juice and great acidity. Very pleasant.
Famed for its sauvignon blanc which jumps from the glass, Marlborough, NZ also produces a zippy glass of dry riesling. Try Belmonte Riesling 2009 (£9.99, 12.5%, www.virginwines.co.uk). Bright and fresh with a floral nose, a fruity sweetness and a hint of spice on the honeyed finish.
Riesling has spread its vines Down Under, and thanks to some talented winemakers, it’s now one of Australia’s greatest strengths - coming second to chardonnay.