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How to Select A Riesling

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Riesling Sweetness Chart

Riesling Grapes

Sunkissed Riesling Grapes

It seems whenever I mention drinking Riesling, inevitably one or two people in the group will state they do not like sweet wines.  That’s when I go on my tirade stating all Rieslings are not sweet.

But it’s statements like “I don’t like sweet wines ” that make it difficult for Riesling wines to gain the esteemed reputation in the United States they so desire.  But I think the tide is turning. A new Riesling taste profile will give consumers an easy way to figure out how to select a Riesling based on their taste preferences.


Determining Sweetness Level

Thanks to the efforts of several Riesling wine makers and wine journalist Dan Berger, a sweetness guideline has been created for consumers to use when buying a Riesling.  The International Riesling Foundation has designed a system comprised of four categories, which depict a wine’s level of sweetness. And don’t worry. The system is simple, forgoing the usual complicated numerical rating system. Instead, Riesling bottles are labeled with a sliding descriptive-word scale as follows:

Dry    Medium Dry    Medium Sweet    Sweet

Riesling Sweetness Level Chart

Riesling Sweetness Level Chart

These type of initiatives have helped make Riesling the fastest-growing white wine in America. Chefs and sommeliers have been championing the virtues of Riesling for years. As more consumers drink Rieslings, they too will learn to appreciate its versatility. Are you looking for a wine for dinner, hanging out with friends or as a gift for a wine collector? A Riesling wine will satisfy all of these situations.

Rieslings pair beautifully with myriad foods.  They have great acidity and minerality. And contrary to popular belief the fruit flavors are not-to-syrupy sweet.


Here’s a guide on how to select a Riesling for any occasion.

  • Sweet – Trying serving with an after-dinner cheese course. The high acidity levels help tame the butter fat content.  This means diners will not be overpowered by either the wine or the cheese.  Dessert such as a pear tart or apple pie are other great options.
  • Medium Sweet – They are a great pairing partner with spicy foods like Thai, Szechuan and Indian dishes.  This natural sweetness gives balance to the heat. In addition, heat of the food brings down the sweetness levels in the wine.
  • Medium Dry – These Rieslings have a hint of sweetness, which due to their generally low alcohol levels allows the fruit flavors to shine through. However, it’s this delicate balance that makes these wines perfect for general, daytime drinking. You may also serve them alongside salty, snack foods or appetizers, making them ideal for game-day gatherings.
  • Dry – A dry Riesling can be served with dishes you’d serve at a dinner party such as chicken, pork, and even vegetarian fare, which can be challenging. The citrus flavor makes it a natural companion to sushi and seafood dishes.
Drink Something New

I think many people are opening up to the idea of drinking wines from outside their comfort zones. If you normally drink a California Zinfandel with pizza, next time try a medium dry Riesling.  If you love Sauvignon Blanc, then reach for a dry Riesling instead.

There’s a big wonderful world of wine just waiting for you to explore.  Still not sure what new wine to try?  Think Finger Lakes. There are more than 115 wineries from which to choose. Wines from this chilly region are produced in all four style categories. Do you enjoy a wine with a great sense of terroir; one with a pronounced taste fruit or perhaps one with brazen acidity?  The Finger Lakes region has something for everyone. You can’t go wrong.

Well, don’t just sit there. It’s time to go wine shopping! And now it’s easier than ever to select the right wine for your needs.

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  1. Donna Marie says:

    Totally agree–Rieslings have gotten a bad rap since the days of Blue Nun!