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The popularity of German Riesling within the wine trade is no secret, so this summer, some of the UK’s top restaurants and wine merchants are celebrating German Riesling with a host of promotions taking place during July.
From 23-31 July, restaurants including Lutyens on Fleet Street and Yauatcha in Soho will be offering special deals on German Rieslings; expect dining promotions offering wines by the glass, bespoke menus with dishes paired to a selection of Rieslings and special discounts on wines from top German producers – the perfect way to discover the versatility and food-friendliness of Germany's world class wines.
Participating wine merchants around the country will be organising exclusive German Riesling tastings, giving customers the chance to meet the winemakers and offering special prices on their range of German wines throughout Riesling Week.
For full details of the promotions available in restaurants and wine merchants during Riesling Week, visit the events section on Wines of Germany’s website from 1 July or check out Riesling Week on Facebook.
Appellation Wines, 43 Dalry Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH11 2BU, 0131 202 0985
Avery’s, 4 High Street, Nailsea, Bristol, BS48 1BT
Barrels and Bottles, Unit 5b Broom Business Park, Bridge Way, Sheepbridge, Chesterfield S41 9QG, 01246 453 399
Bedales Wines, Borough market, Leadenhall market and Spitalfields market, London
The City Beverage Company, 303 Old Street, City of London EC1V 9LA, 020 7729 2111
Corks Out (5 stores)
Great Western Wines, Wells Rd, Bath, Avon BA2 3AP, 01225 322 810
Ex Cellar Wine (3 stores)
Inverarity One to One, 185a Bath Street, Glasgow G2 4HU, 0141 221 5121
The Oxford Wine Company, Witney Road, Standlake OX29 7PR, 01865 301144
Rai Wine Shop, 337 Harborne Lane, Harborne, Birmingham B17 0NT,
Tanners (5 stores)
Thomas Peatling, Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds IP33 1QS, 01284 714 285
The Wine Barn, Clump Farm Barn, Farleigh Lane, Dummer, Hampshire RG25 2AF 01256 391211
The Wine Store, Cambridgeshire, CB7 5PZ, 01638 555190
Talk to any sommelier worth their salt and they’ll fall over themselves in extolling the variety’s virtues. Alvaro Marcos Garcia, head sommelier at Home House in London, loves pairing the drier styles of Riesling with sea bass or black cod. ‘People are really looking for these modern, dry styles of Riesling,’ he says. This hints at the evolution of today’s German Riesling, as a new generation of winemakers continues the tradition of world-class wines, but bring a modern mentality and presentation learned from study and experience abroad.
Today’s German Riesling is multi-faceted in its styles, providing a rich and varied palette of flavours for sommeliers to play around with. ‘The versatility of Riesling comes from its structure and flavour profile, and its different styles,’ agrees Laura Rhys, head sommelier at Hotel TerraVina in Hampshire. ‘Take cheese, for example: I love to match drier styles with goat’s cheese and a richer, sweeter Riesling would work so well with blue cheeses – but what holds it together is the refreshing, mouthwatering feel that is always present in Rieslings. ‘The sweeter styles, of course, also work so well with desserts – I recently served a Riesling Auslese with spiced pineapple carpaccio and it matched so well with the sweetness of the fruit, as well as the sweet spice, yet still leaving a great freshness in the mouth afterwards,’ she adds.
This ultimate expression of food-friendliness extends to traditionally difficult-to-match dishes – and especially Asian cuisine, from sushi to spiced Thai, Indian and Chinese food. ‘Riesling is fantastic with things like miso soup, raw salmon, tuna, any sashimi,’ enthuses Marcos Garcia. ‘It is really the thing here. People love its aromatic character.’
The secret lies in German Riesling’s naturally low alcohol levels and delicately balanced fruitiness, helping the wine to match and not be overpowered by foods such as curry and raw fish. If you still need another reason to try Riesling, how about this: it won’t dent your bank balance.
‘German Rieslings do offer very good value for money when compared to some of the other top wines from regions such as Burgundy and Bordeaux,’ says Rhys. ‘The wines also age very well and very gracefully, making them very exciting to open many years on, to see how they have developed. I love the complexity and intensity they develop as they age.’
RIESLING WINE AND FOOD MATCHES
With a veritable kaleidoscope of styles, Riesling can be paired with many different foods. Here are some of the best matches
Riesling Kabinett Trocken (dry) - a lighter style with refreshing acidity. Goes well with seafood, pasta, veal, pork dishes, goats' cheese and sushi or sashimi.
Riesling Spätlese - can be dry or sweet. Look for the word trocken if you want it to be dry.
dry - a rich, complex wine. Try with fish in a beurre-blanc sauce, sashimi, soft-rind cheeses, crab cakes, falafel, clam chowder, pad Thai, samosas and savoury soufflés.
off-dry - this can be off-dry to sweet on the palate but can be dry on the finish. Blue cheeses, spicy dishes including Mexican, Middle Eastern, Thai, Indian and sweet-and-sour dishes all work well with these wines.
Riesling Auslese, Beerenauslese and Eiswein (sweet) - these sweet wines are luscious and honeyed on the palate and match well with a foie-gras starter as well as fruit tarts, crème brûlée, and vanilla ice cream.
To the uninitiated, German wine bottles can look a little intimidating. But the reality is far more straightforward, and with a bit of research, anyone can master the language of the label. Here is our bluffer’s guide...
Trocken: An important word to look out for if you like your wines to be dry, as this is the German word for ‘dry’. You’ll notice it appearing on more and more German wine bottles these days, as winemakers are making more dry wines than ever.
Kabinett: Top quality German wines are sub-divided into six styles related to their relative sweetness – from dry and half-dry (trocken and halbtrocken) to lusciously sweet. Kabinett wines are naturally the lightest wines in the world to be made from fully ripened grapes, and usually range in taste from bone dry to half-dry.
Spätlese: Meaning ‘late harvest’, Spätlese wines are made from very ripe grapes and are fuller in body, aroma and flavour than Kabinett wines.
Auslese: Wines made from selected bunches of overripe grapes, with great richness of aroma and intensity of flavour.
Beerenauslese (BA): Lusciously sweet, dessert wines made from individually picked, overripe grapes often affected by noble rot or botrytis cinerea – giving huge concentration, but only in very good years.
Eiswein: Headily intense wines of great sweetness and acidity, made from fully ripe grapes left on the vine until a hard frost of at least -8˚C.
Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): Rarest of the rare ultra-sweet wines, made from hand-selected berries dried up like raisins and producing extremely concentrated, honeyed wines. A real luxury!
Labels of quality German wines state which region the wine has been produced in. The most famous winemaking regions in Germany are:
Mosel – Famous for its steep slopes overlooking the Moselle river and widely regarded as producing the finest Rieslings in the world.
Rheingau – A small region with a high proportion of top wine estates, Rheingau producers focus mainly on making Riesling wines, and some Pinot Noir.
Rheinhessen – The largest wine region in Germany, producing mainly white wines, including Riesling in a range of styles from very dry to lusciously sweet.
Pfalz – As one of the warmest winemaking regions in Germany, grapes growing in the Pfalz get plenty of sunshine, which results in full-bodied, drier-style wines in the bottle.