Food and drink: Riesling redux 

The ultimate summer sipper gets an upgrade

I’m not a big fan of the “ah ha” moment vernacular, especially as it’s used in the wine business, but I must say I like the notion of wine drinkers experimenting with new wines and then almost out of nowhere, “they get it.” As the summer plays out in Whistler, I’m hoping you will reach for a glass of fresh, crisp, tasty riesling, and after a sip or two, you get it.

Many wine types believe it’s time the noble white grape that was once the toast of the wine world, a mere century ago, be restored to its former glory. But the often referred to “riesling renaissance” has sputtered of late in some parts of North America, mostly at the store level where consumers have the final choice.

The official home of riesling is Germany but, ironically, it’s the fresh floral, fruit flavours of grapes grown outside of Deutschland — in places like Australia, New Zealand, Washington State, New York’s Finger Lakes and Canada’s Niagara and Okanagan wine regions — that are leading the rush back to riesling.

A global return to riesling is all fine with German winemaker Johannes Selbach, a modern-day riesling ambassador who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time in Vancouver and Whistler. Selbach, the proprietor of the Mosel-based Selbach-Oster (at Zeltingen) will take whatever help he can get.

According to Selbach, “You don’t have to beat down the walls anymore to get people to taste or buy riesling, that’s past. Worldwide, it’s like everybody has put it back on the map. We see new business beyond Japan and Hong Kong in Russia and Asia. All the new markets that were heavily, heavily into red wines are now rediscovering whites, and riesling is one of them. Even in Germany, believe it or not, people are drinking a lot more riesling.”

Could riesling’s newfound success have something to do with its ability to pair well with food? Certainly he is enjoying a great deal of success with the Selbach Riesling Dry Fish Label, a wine he designed for food, hence, the fish on the label. It’s classic Selbach where the philosophy is to make elegant, crisp, low-alcohol wines packed with flavours. “Our ideal wine,” says Johannes, “is one that reflects the parents of the wine — the mineral-rich slate soil and the ripe, juicy riesling fruit.”

Selbach is just releasing a new “fighting varietal” riesling that may eventually be given the moniker Dr S. The plan is to take on the market leader Dr L. Riesling made by a regional colleague, Ernie Loosen, and the Bird Label Pfalz riesling made by another crusader, Rainer Lingenfelder.


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