Riesling is the name of a varietal grape that grows well in cooler climates, such as in Germany — which is why Germany is known for Riesling wines, particularly from the Mosel and Rhine river valleys. It’s a green-skinned grape, used to make a white wine that can vary from bone-dry to dessert sweet.
My first wine-tasting, ever, featured both Rhine and Mosel Rieslings. Our priest in Arvada had a PhD in Germanic studies, and had spent some years in Germany. He had (and has) a fondness for wines, and music, and erudition, so our “church social” wine-tasting at the home of one of the parishioners — a larger home, complete with backyard pool and tennis court — was quite an education for a first wine-tasting. He’d selected the wines to bring out some of the profound differences between the Rheinweins and the Moselweins, but also the more subtle distinctions from vineyard to vineyard.
And, of course, we all got quite tipsy and had a wonderful, long afternoon that stretched into the late evening.
I went to another wine tasting, years later, which was more geared (I think) to commercial interests, particularly restaurant and bar owners. I went alone, and found that it took some pushing and shoving to get close enough to the tables to even get a sample of any of the reds. The few I managed to taste were — well, awful. Then I found a few tables out on the patio where they were pouring Rieslings — and the crisp notes of fresh apple paired beautifully with the cool evening and the moonlight.
I can’t remember the last time I had a bad Riesling. They start at good, and go up from there.
As with most wines, I understand that the truly exceptional ones tend to be single harvests from specific vineyards. But it’s hit-or-miss: you might have one exceptional year, followed by several mediocre or even bad years. It’s why many, if not most, large-scale wineries buy their grapes from multiple vineyards and blend them.
The Schlink Haus Auslese I finished the other night is, I believe, one of the blends. As an Auslese (“picked-out” grapes, specifically for ripeness), it tends toward the sweet rather than the dry, with brisk notes of fresh apple and a medium-long finish. Not expensive, and entirely delightful.