February 22, 2006

Riesling

What's the one sort of wine that every sommelier in the U.S. wishes we'd drink more of?

The variety that can match a salad with vinaigrette as easily as it stands up to a roast chicken; that can take on sushi as well as bacon-wrapped scallops?

What's the wine that goes with vegetarian dishes as well as a white bean stew chock-a-block with sausages and duck confit, as in cassoulet?

It's riesling, the super-grape of the wine world, and the wines no restaurant, nor home, should ever be without. Americans often fear that riesling will be sweet, because there used to be a lot of bad German riesling in blue bottles in our market.

Thanks to such importers as Terry Theise, Cellars International, and Valckenberg, we now get much of the best of Germany shipped to our shores. Some of those wines are sweet, but most are dry, or have just enough sweetness to make them more versatile with food.

A panoply of great, bone-dry rieslings is coming out of Austria and Australia these days, not to mention Alsace, long home of some of the world's best. There are even some good versions coming out of California and Washington State (look for Bonny Doon and Poet's Leap in particular.) And because it's so hard to get people to drink riesling in the U.S., the prices tend to run far less than, say, the chardonnays of comparable quality.

So next time you're faced with the wine list and don't know where to look, fear not, if riesling is there.

This article first appeared in the Denver Post.

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