Wines that Rock: Riesling - We can dance if we want to

We can dance if you want to, you can leave your friends behind. But if your friends don't dance well it is totally up to them. That is the beauty of wine. 

For those who cannot appreciate Riesling, and do not understand it, it seems like a one hit wonder that quickly came in and out of fashion. Yet it remains in our hearts and minds, and if you really love it, like truly have a serious thing for it, it becomes a timeless cult hit. 

Riesling is something of a mystery, and perhaps its more a fault of ours rather than the wine itself. In the eighties, when sweet wines were all the rage, sweet Riesling (harvested late in the season) was a big hit. When sweet wines went out, so did Riesling. As a result everybody forgot that Riesling has a wide range of styles from super dry to super sweet. Though a native of Germany, where wine lovers (in a very Germanic way) appreciate the intricacies of Riesling and how the wine is shapes by when the grape is harvested, it has grown a significant following around the world. American wineries are intrigued by what Riesling has to offer, and are catching in a very American sense are constantly looking at how they can make their ideal wines by leaving the grapes to ripen until they feel they are ready.

To truly appreciate Riesling is akin to truly appreciating synth pop from the eighties. In that regard, German Riesling is like the Kraftwerk of the genre. They started this crazy thing, but they did not rest on their laurels. They tried a slew of new things, working with different sounds. In Germany they work with Riesling in a similar fashion, harvesting the grapes at different points of the season to create different wines. From super crisp, dry, and refreshing Trocken Riesling to the honeyed Eiswein (a wine made from grapes harvested late in the season and while they are frozen on the vine). So what do you need to know about the different Riesling forms?

  • Trocken - Super dry Riesling. Lots of minerality, acidity, and flavors of green apples or lemons
  • Kabinett - Made from fully ripened grapes, but made in a light style. Still a bit acidic, but you start to get sweeter fruit flavors, peaches, plumbs, apricots
  • Spatlese - Fully ripened grapes harvested late in the harvest season. Essentially a semi-sweet wine you start to get the honeycomb flavors but still that gentle acidity.
  • Auslese - Rich in fruit, smells and tastes of honey. Its a sweet wine without being a full fledged desert wine.
  • Desert Wine - Noble Harvest, which starts to grow the Noble fungus, are grapes that have a super high concentration of sugar, or Eiswein which is made from grapes that are harvest froze right at the end of the harvest season (or shortly after it).

And much like every monumental, niche musical movement, the electronic music movement and Riesling have gone mainstream. Winemakers around the world use the Riesling grapes and the German methods to have a go, take a spin, and make their own Rieslings. Some have become mega stars, others a little more one hit wonders, but everybody has their own take on it. Whether it is bright and poppy like Culture Club or the dark, yet upbeat wailings of Depeche Mode to more gothic tones of The Cure. 

What you need to know about Riesling

So many people are quick to pass over Riesling, but its like passing over music itself. You really have to taste a few, give it a chance, and be open minded. Of course, the first time you ever listen to avant-garde electronic music you are going to be taken aback. Its pretty crazy stuff, but give it time and you will be dusting off a Korg synthesizer you found at a yard sale and and trying to recreate the sounds you heard on the New Order album.