Riesling: History And Food Pairings


If you like wines that offer fruity flavor and refreshing aroma, you’ll probably love Riesling. Wine enthusiasts around the world revere this drink, considered to be one of the most collectible white wines by top connoisseurs.

Riesling is known for being crisp; it cleanses and awakens the palate. This characteristic comes from its high level of acidity comparable to that of lemonade. The acidity of the wine is balanced with the fresh and sweet aromas of nectarine, honey-crisp apple, pear, and apricot. It also offers smells similar to jasmine, honeycomb, or lime peel.

Despite the popularity of its sweet varieties, there are also dry varieties that appeal to connoisseurs who prefer a lean flavor. Because of its unique character that tickles the palette, many gourmands consider Riesling to be the best food wine anywhere in the world.

Brief History of Riesling

Riesling originated in Rhine, Germany. One of the first references to the white wine was in the storage inventory of Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen’s high noble court in 1435. Many believe that it was the preferred wine of German nobles, taking crates of bottles with them as they traveled across Europe for conquests and business negotiations.

By 1546, German botanist, physician, and Lutheran minister Hieronymus Bock mentioned the drink in his book, Herbal. During this period, the wine has been referenced in various record books and was called Rießlingen.

As it was popular among the nobles, cellars in Medieval Germany would never be without casefuls of Riesling. Wine enthusiasts realized that Riesling is a rare wine that ages very well, much like Chardonnay.

Regular white wines taste best when consumed soon after bottling. Riesling, however, gets better with age thanks to its high levels of acidity, a chemical compound TDN found in Riesling grape. This wine can continue to have improved flavor in its bottle for up to over a century.

Where The Best Riesling Comes From

Searching for the best Rieslings in the world would lead you to Germany’s Mosel River. Behind its fruity sweetness, connoisseurs pick out a particular taste reminiscent of slate rocks – the very type of soil where Mosel Riesling is cultivated.

Not all Rieslings are created equal – their flavor profiles, sweetness, and dryness all depend on the area where the grapes grow. Varieties from Germany and California tend to be on the sweet side. However, it’s not uncommon to find bottles of dry Riesling from both regions. The key is to look for the word “dry” or “trocken” (the German word for dry) on the bottle label.

The dry varieties of Riesling typically come from the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Washington State, and the Alsace region of Austria and France. Because the Rieslings from these areas are naturally dry, bottlers don’t often put the word “dry” on the label.

Famous Bottles of Riesling

Weingut Keller G-Max Riesling Trocken​ (Rheinhessen, Germany)

The Keller family produces this wine since 1789. Their dry variety is made from some of the estate’s oldest Riesling vines. Being a sought-after bottle in Germany, it is the second most expensive wine from Rheinhessen and can cause up to $1357.

F E Trimbach Riesling Clos Sainte Hune​ (Alsace, France)

This bottle is produced in a 5-acre land of limestone-rich soil in the Rosacker Alsace Grand Cru vineyard. The Trimbach family cultivates the vineyard for more than two centuries now and have Rieslings with an average age of 50 years old. This winery only produces 8,000 bottles a year, making it a limited-edition drink. An average bottle costs $179, but their most premium offerings, such as the 1978 vintage, can cost up to $614.

Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese​ (Mosel,Germany)

Joh. Jos. Prüm is one of the most famous wine producers in Germany, and this particular variety is one of the most searched bottles in the country. The winery has been creating Auslese style for nearly a century now. A bottle of this wine costs $55, offering value for money – it’s relatively affordable compared to other varieties of its caliber.

Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese​ (Mosel,Germany)

Egon Müller estate has been producing wines since 1797 and is particularly famous for its Scharzhofberger wines. This sweet Trockenbeerenauslese is extremely rare and equally expensive; a bottle will set you back a whopping $8486.

Weingut Dönnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling Grosses Gewächs​ (Nahe, Germany)

Hermannshöhle Riesling is known for its prominent minerality, caused by soils in the vineyard rich with black slate, igneous rock, and limestone. This intense and elegant wine is produced with grapes from vines up to 60 years of age, fermented in oak barrels and stainless steel vats.

Best Food Pairings

Despite pairing well with almost anything, Riesling is best enjoyed with spicy food. Spices, when combined with the sweet and acidic characteristics of the wine, will create a party in your mouth. Pair barbecued meats or Asian food (be it Thai, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Chinese cuisine) with a bottle of Riesling, and you’ll be in for a gastronomic adventure.

The best spices, herbs, and aromatics that complement the wine are cayenne pepper, clove, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, madras curry, turmeric, Sichuan pepper, sesame, shallots, basil, and marjoram. It also goes well with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and teriyaki sauce.

Aside from spicy numbers, here are other flavors that go well with Riesling:

Meat and Seafood

The best proteins that go well with Riesling are pork, duck, bacon, chicken, shrimp, and crab. Many gourmands swear by having Riesling with spiced duck leg. The wine also goes well with cured meats, including various types of salami, as well as entrees with spicy or smokey flavors such as chicken satay and corned beef.

Delicate Cheeses

Riesling goes well with mild and delicate cheeses such as flavored soft cow’s milk cheese. Some of the best cheeses that pair with the wine include cheddar, asiago, gorgonzola, gruyère, and gouda. Add dried fruit to your fruit platter to take the flavors to the next level.

Vegetarian Fare

Vegetarians and vegans can also enjoy divine food pairings. Roasted vegetables such as bell pepper, onions, and eggplant would taste well with the wine. Produce with natural sweetness such as squash and carrots also work well with either sweet or dry varieties. Tempeh and coconut also complement the wine’s flavors.

Summer Thatcher
Summer Thatcher
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