Good wine: Getting to know riesling -- a delicious undertaking

Posted7/31/2012 1:00 PM

A lot of fun with wine involves mix-and-matching wine with food.

Last night, for instance, I made a great match of Indonesian-style beef curry with a spicy, red -- a Cabernet Franc. Then I paired the curry with riesling and it was also delicious.


It got me reminiscing about my most delicious wine and food combinations.

There was the succulent, smoked salmon appetizer served with Champagne. The salmon was also delicious with riesling.

There was juicy roast pork with baked apples, served with chardonnay, also delicious with riesling.

Then there was elegant duck breast with raspberry sauce, served with Italy's statuesque red -- Barbaresco, also delicious with riesling.

In fact, nearly every guide to pairing wine with food can safely end, "… also delicious with riesling."

Unfortunately, some consumers associate riesling with Blue Nun, an easy-drinking blend that includes a dose of riesling. This is like associating the entirety of world music with "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider."

In fact, riesling is prized for expression of growing region, dizzying complexity and just plain deliciousness.

Riesling grapes grow throughout the world, but Germany grows a benchmark. German riesling combines pure fruit flavor with mineral accents, crystalline texture and an endless finish that prepares the eager palate for food.

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Here's a primer to help you, your sommelier or merchant select the wine perfect for your dish, palate and occasion.

Qualitatswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete indicates wine that satisfies quality regulations, with sugar added to boost fermentation. There's no shame in assisting Mother Nature, considering that German vineyards lie at about the same latitude as Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. You can show your savvy of German labels by requesting simply "QbA." The best QbAs are light, refreshing and delicately sweet.

In addition to pairing with casual dishes, QbA is the base for a refreshing cocktail -- the Spritzer. Just add ice and soda water to taste.

A few dollars more buys you Qualitatswein mit Pradikat, or simply "Pradikat" (PRAD-dih-KAHT.) Pradikat wines rely solely on natural ripeness for fermentation and depth of flavor.

It's easy to know what you're getting with a Pradikat, because labels indicate body and flavor concentration. Kabinett (KAB-in-NETT) wines are light in alcohol, with flavors similar to a tart green apple. Kabinett may be enjoyed at breakfast (with ham and Swiss omelet or quiche, for instance), lunch (Waldorf salad, light sandwiches) and the lightest dinner (sole almondine, sushi).

Spatlese (SHPATE-lase-uh), meaning "late harvest," is produced from grapes receiving extra time on the vine. These wines have a silky mouth feel and flavors of ripe nectarines. Spatlese's richer alcohol content begs for richer or spicier dishes, including shellfish (lobster Thermidor), seafood (grilled salmon) and white meats (spicy pork stir-fry or five-alarm ribs).

Auslese (OWSH-lase-uh) is made from individual grape bunches, hand-selected for extra ripeness. Texture is satiny with flavors similar to mango or apricot. Serve with unctuous foods, including creamy cheese, foie gras or baked peaches.

Beerenauslese (BEAR-en-owsh-lase-uh) and Trockenbeerenauslese (TROCK-en-BEAR-en-owsh-lase-uh) are produced from individual grapes, hand-selected for intense ripeness and concentration. The wines are lusciously sweet, awe-inspiring in complexity and fabulously expensive. Serve this opulent wine simply with nuts, creamy cheese and quiet contemplation.

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