- Sarah O'Kelley
New Year & Yet Another Riesling Pitch
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again…those of us in the wine trade absolutely LOVE to wave the Riesling flag – basically begging folks to cross over into Certified Riesling Nerd territory. So prepare yourselves – here’s yet another pitch from me on this monumental topic (but it certainly beats pandemic news, right?!)
This Riesling tale begins on a sunny yet foggy winter day…just a few days ago, in fact – good, ol’ New Year’s Day! I’ve learned over the years that I actually love New Year’s Day much more than New Year’s Eve. Even in my grown-up phase there’s just too much hype and expectation centered around the Eve; whereas New Year’s Day is quite the opposite. Honestly, I am usually just so worn out from work that the Eve is pretty quiet for me, and on New Year’s Day I nurse my work hangover (much more mild than an actual hangover).
And how do I recuperate? Mostly by cooking! The traditional southern New Year’s Day feast of collard greens, peas, and cornbread is truly one of my favorite meals of the year.
It’s definitely one of those meals that I always question, “Why only enjoy this once each year?!” But maybe that’s what makes it so damn good (yep, kind of like turkey & dressing on Thanksgiving, I suppose.) But to me this New Year’s Day extravaganza surpasses even Thanksgiving. The salty, tangy greens; the earthy, warming peas; the just a hint of sweetness from the cornbread…
So what to pair with this explosion of flavors? In years past, I have reached for some sort of easy drinking red – like new world Pinot Noir or perhaps Beaujolais. And this year I did indeed bring home a Jura red that seemed like a sure pleaser. Yet, as the greens turned tender and the peas simmered away I was struck by inspiration: Riesling!
I just happened to have an aged dry Riesling ( stashed away, and somehow the time never seemed perfect…until now. I could just imagine the refreshing minerality and acidity cutting through the umami laden decadence on the table. And significant age on the bottle could only add to the experience.
So I did what any good Riesling nerd would do and went for it! To say it lived up to my expectations is a total understatement. It surpassed all expectations and only became better by the minute. Daydream of drinking water from the purest mountain stream (somewhere like Narnia), and you get my drift.
It was seriously one of those meals where with every bite and sip I proclaimed – this is the best ever…
Now I am just hoping that New Year’s meal magic works a bit better than the past two years, and we can all have a 2022 that exceeds expectations!!
Quick Guide to Picking Out Your New Favorite Riesling:
I enjoyed a Riesling from Germany (the birthplace of the grape), but great Riesling also comes from Austria, France, Oregon, Washington, Australia, and New Zealand (just to name a few).
My New Year’s Riesling came from Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, a winery in the Mosel region of Germany that dates back 650 years. The legacy of wine in Germany is quite astounding!
Each Germany region carries with it a stereotypical style of Riesling in accordance with the different terroirs of each region. Mosel can be known for delicacy whereas Rheingau and Pfalz can be more so known for power due to their warmer growing conditions.
However, the Riesling I enjoyed from Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt exhibited quite a bit of power – definitely enough to stand up to this hearty meal. Much of this power could be attributed to this wine’s acclaimed vineyard of origin – Sonnenuhr – which translates to “sundial”. There are in fact several vineyards bearing the name sundial in the Mosel (confusing, yes!) But usually you will also find on the label the name of the village as well…in this case it appeared on the back label – Wehlener Sonnenuhr. Wehlen is the village name!
On this bottle you will also find “GG” on the label, which stands for Grosses Gewachs (or “Great Growths); this indicates the wine comes from a revered site, and it is dry (meaning very little residual sugar).
Fear of residual sugar certainly tops the list of reasons that many folks avoid Riesling. But in fact many, many Riesling are DRY (little to no residual sugar). However, German wine labels can be very varied and thus confusing! The easiest way to decipher a wine’s sweetness level? Look at the alcohol content! Any wine lower than 10% most likely has some residual sugar as that indicates that not all of the grapes’ sugars were fermented into alcohol! You can also look for the word “trocken” which means dry or for this “GG” classification.
On the label you will also find the vintage (or year of harvest). I enjoyed a 2012 bottling, and honestly at 9 years old this wine seemed to be "developing" but still very vibrant. Thanks to its high acidity Riesling can age for years and years. I wish I had a second bottle of this wine to enjoy 10 years from now!
Hopefully, all this nerdy info opens up the doors to exploring this amazing grape and its many regions!