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The traditional holiday wine has a reputation  for being sweet, but local wine experts say  there’s a crisp, dry side to this German grape ( WINE & BEER )

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  • Wine at Four Seasons in Hadley.
  • <br/>Wine at Four Seasons in Hadley.
  •  Rieslings at  Four Seasons in Hadley.
  • Wine at Four Seasons in Hadley.
  •  Wine at  Four Seasons in Hadley.
  • <br/>Sean Barry with Rieslings in his store, Four Seasons in Hadley.
  • Glass of White Wine

If the thought of drinking Riesling makes your teeth hurt, fear not, there’s a lot more to the traditional German wine than sweetness.

Riesling also comes in dry and off-dry flavors for those aficionados who abhor sugary vintages. You can drink Riesling as a still, ice or sparkling-wine.

And Riesling is a terrific holiday wine that goes especially well with a turkey dinner.

“The range for Riesling is wide enough to satisfy,” said Sean Barry, manager at Four Seasons in Hadley. “People get stuck on the notion that Rieslings are too sweet and they’re unwilling to try them.

“Everybody’s tolerance for sweetness is different. A lot of people aren’t willing to take the risk on a whole bottle,” he said.

For many Americans, the long and indecipherable labels on bottles of German Rieslings are confusing at best, and completely off-putting at worst. Three of the most common descriptions on Riesling labels are Auslese, Kabinett and Spatlese — huh? (These words give an indication as to when the grapes were harvested and the relative sweetness of the wine: Auslese is the sweetest of the three; Kabinett is the driest, but still fruity; and Spatlese is off-dry and fruity, though sometimes sweet.) Hence, some buyers might want to seek out the advice of local experts to navigate their way through the thicket to wine-drinking nirvana.

Barry, along with other local oenophiles: Andrew Morrison, co-owner of Liquors 44 in Hadley, Northampton and Holyoke; Mark Hanson, assistant manager at State Street Wines and Spirits in Northampton; and Steve Freedman, owner of Amherst Wines & Spirits, are happy to demystify Rieslings and assist adventurous wine drinkers in choosing a bottle to complement a meal, enjoy with an appetizer or to raise a toast with friends at the holidays.

Hanson, a big fan of the variety, noted that the Riesling grape is packed with flavor. Besides Germany, Riesling is also produced in France, California, New York’s Finger Lakes, Australia and New Zealand.

“The acidity inherent in the grape produces wines with a lot of flavor, structure, minerality and the ability to age,” he said. “The balance of the fine body of the grape and potential for sugar, in conjunction with the acidity makes it great for food. It’s a unique experience that most wine experts hold up as the epitome of great wine.”

Freedman said it seems his customers are overcoming preconceived ideas that Rieslings are too sweet and reaizing that the quality of German Riesling is better than ever. For people who are just being introduced to Riesling, he recommends the 2009 Wolf Blass from Australia.

“Rieslings are terrific Thanksgiving wines,” Freedman said. “They’re full-flavored and can stand up to the Thanksgiving table.”

Besides a traditional turkey dinner, Rieslings pair well with other kinds of poultry, fruit, cheeses, seafood, spicy Asian food and other typically white wine foods, he said.

Other Rieslings Freedman recommends are the 2009 Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker, a sweet wine and the “big, bold and dry” qualities of the 2010 Muller-Catoir Gimmeldingen, both of which are from Germany, as well as the 2011 Ravines and the 2011 Hermann J. Wiemer from the Finger Lakes Region.

Morrison likes the German 2011 Nahe Kreuznacher Kronenberg Kabinett, which he called “light bodied, and barely sweet.” Another one of his recommendations from Germany is the 2008 Reusher Piesporter Goldtopfelen Spatlese, a moderately sweet wine with a medium and crisp body. He also likes Washington’s 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling, which offers lime, green apple and floral aromas and flavors, “which linger toward a vibrant finish.”

Customers tend to associate the holidays with Riesling, said Morrison, and the wine sells well at this time of year. In his house, it’s his wife who gravitates toward Riesling. “She likes the lighter bodied ones,” Morrison said. “Drier ones to her are too acidic.”

Barry’s first two recommendations come from the Finger Lakes region. A 2011 Riesling from Red Newt Cellars is an off-dry wine that can be a crowd pleaser. “It’s not super sweet and it’s not dry,” he said. “Its medium sweet, so a regular wine drinker can tolerate it and a sweet wine drinker likes it too.”

The other is New York State Riesling a non-vintage, off-dry offering from Bully Hill. He said he likes to look for Riesling that has a nice balance of sugar and acidity, as this one does.

Barry also touts an off-dry German Riesling from the Mosel region, called Ockfener Scharzberg, a 2009 offering that “has a nice minerality and fruit flavors of apricot and peach,” he said.

The driest Rieslings sold at State Street are from the Alsace region of France, Austria and the United States, Hanson said. Examples include a 2008 Pacific Rim Dry Riesling from Washington State, 2009 Trimbach Riesling from Alsace, and 2008 Sepp Moser Riesling Von Den Terrassen from Austria. All of these wines are excellent with Thanksgiving dinner, other poultry and seafood.

There are some people, however, who like a sweet Riesling. Hanson recommends the 2011 Kreuznacher Kronenberg Riesling Spatlese, also from Germany, which is on the sweet side. The Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett, another choice from Hanson, from the Mosel region of Germany, and it’s even sweeter than the Spatlese.

“Peach, apple and honey are the three flavors often found in these wines,” Hanson explained. “Because the Riesling grape has a high level of acidity it ... preserves the wine. More expensive German Rieslings can age 10 to 15 years, or more.”

Like his fellow oenophile Barry, Hanson urges wine lovers to take a chance on Riesling.

“Like any other grape, the diversity from sweet to dry is as great as any Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc,” he said. “Between dry and off-dry Rieslings, there’s a lot of ground covered and people will be surprised. In America, we’re just scratching the surface of what Rieslings can offer.”

Related

A wine for every food ( WINE & BEER )

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If the Riesling article didn’t sell you on serving this German wine with Thanksgiving dinner, local wine experts still have you covered. Here, Andrew Morrison, co-owner of Liquors 44 in Hadley, Northampton and Holyoke; Mark Hanson, assistant manager at State Street Wines and Spirits in Northampton; Steve Freedman, owner of Amherst Wines & Spirits; and Sean Barry, manager at Four …

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