Posts Tagged ‘riesling’

Easter Wine Pairings

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Easter is a time to celebrate with family and friends.  When meals are involved, the focus is often on a roasted ham or a nice leg of lamb.  But what wines go best with these dishes?  After all, hams are often prepared with a variety of glazes, aren’t they?  Read on!An Easter ham perfect with a glass of wine.

No matter how sweet your ham’s glaze may be, ham is an inherently salty meat.  Keeping this in mind, the best wines for any ham are Rieslings or  Gewürztraminers.  Both sweet wines complement the salty flavor of ham without impacting the taste of the glaze, or the taste of the wines themselves.  If you’d prefer a more buttery mouth feel to accompany your glazed ham, a slightly oaked Chardonnay is also a possibility.  For drinkers who prefer red wine, Red Zinfandel is a spot-on alternative; the bold presence of its fruit flavors will complement any sweet ham.

If you’re serving leg of lamb, consider a traditional pairing like Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Merlot.  You’ll want a wine that is fruity and acidic so that it complements your lamb (a meat with big flavor!), but does not subdue its flavor.  If some guests want white wine, while others desire red, consider having two or more bottles of wine open simultaneously.  Save any left over wine with the convenient WineKeeper 3-Bottle Executive for more relaxed enjoyment later in the evening.  Cheers, and Happy Easter!

Wine and Spice: Hot Foods & Wines to Choose

March 1st, 2012 No comments

It’s still winter, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the season for spicy food.  In fact, a good meal filled with spicy delights might be just the thing to warm you up!  Are you eyeing that jalapeño?  Are red, hot chili peppers calling your name?  Here are some wines that are sure to complement your spicy food’s zestiness!

red hot chili pepperIf your dish contains mild, flavor-rich peppers (like chili peppers or cherry peppers), consider having a glass of Malbec on hand to soften the burn.  If Malbecs seem too “big” for you, perhaps a fruit-flavored Pinot Noir will be an acceptable counterpoint to your cuisine?  And if you’re a diehard white wine drinker, never fear; dry Rieslings will also soothe your taste buds while simultaneously pairing well with your meal.

If your dish is so hot that it could be labeled “nuclear,” consider pairing it with a wine that has a lower alcohol content and is also on the sweeter side.  A German Riesling with low a low level of alcohol, such as Spätlese, is an excellent choice (as is an Alsatian Gewurztraminer).

Don’t be afraid to pair your spicy, winter cuisine with a bottle of white or red listed above.  You’ll be surprised how a decent, appropriate bottle can compliment even the hottest of peppers.  Cheers!

Time for Thanksgiving Wines

November 17th, 2011 No comments
A Wild Turkey

“Wild Turkey” photographed by MONGO

If you’re planning to host a fancy Thanksgiving, why not pull all the stops?  Instead of serving one wine with the meal, liven things up by serving several in graded succession.  For example, start with an apéritif either on its own, or with some light appetizers.  Muscat is an excellent choice, and helps prepare the palate for courses yet to come.  If your main course consists of turkey, consider serving a light white to accompany the subtle flavors of this bird.  Dry whites are especially nice, but for guests with sweeter tastes consider pairing the bird with a sweet Riesling.  To keep family and friends happy, offer them these wine options, or (better yet) let them sample each.  As a third choice, a nice bottle of Pinot Noir will always be a winner.  For dessert, pair your pie with a tasty glass of port.  For pies on the more tart side, consider a tawny port.  For sweeter pies, ruby port is a nice match.  This Thanksgiving, serving a variety of wines throughout your meal will help to make your Thanksgiving feast a classy wine adventure to remember!  In fact, this holiday may even be the perfect occasion to use your new Riedel Riesling Grand Cru wine glasses, or to pass around a set of lovely Vintage Port glasses… Just food for thought!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wine Review: Schmitt Söhne Riesling Qualitätswein 2009

August 24th, 2011 No comments

This little guy’s not bad! And by “little guy” I mean the wine, though the wine’s “mascot” happens to be an adorable, little German man.

This good-value, summertime sipper proved exceptionally clear, with a shimmery, pale-yellow color. With an aroma of sufficient intensity, though a little plain, scents of lemon, berry, slight pear, apple, and honeysuckle became more pronounced as the wine opened. Though light-bodied and lean, the wine tasted pleasantly crisp with pronounced, lip-smacking sweet flavors of apple and pear. Though not a complex wine, this inexpensive, yummy delight (less than $10 a bottle) is well-balanced, easy to drink and, just as promised by the sign held by the little guy on the label, “will work with food.” The wine’s crispness allows it to pair easily with chicken, fish, pork, ham, salads, spicy summertime dishes and, of course, desserts, making it ideal for summertime picnics. This wine was an affordable summertime gem I’m glad I picked up! (In fact, I may pull over for a few more bottles the next time I’m out and about.)

Riesling: The Chameleon Grape

June 10th, 2011 No comments

Rieslings are fantastic wines that wear many hats.  Often referred to as being a “chameleon grape”, Riesling grapes really do play many roles.  In fact, the wines they produce range from those that are completely dry to wines that are insatiably sweet!  While “Zinfandel” makes us think of California, “Riesling” instantly brings Germany to mind, though good Rieslings can be found elsewhere, too.  Dry Rieslings, Rieslings packed with fresh citrus and peach flavors, Rieslings containing honey scents and fruity notes, and spectacular dessert Rieslings utilizing the same grapes are waiting for you at your local wine store!

Riedel Riesling wine glass

To further demonstrate the delightful versatility of this grape, we compare two different Rieslings: the C.H. Berres Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 1997 (produced in Germany), and the Montinore Estate Almost Dry Riesling 2009 (produced in America).  Using Riedel Sommeliers Riesling Grand Cru Wine Glasses for optimal visual comparison, we find the appearance of both wines strikingly similar.  Each has a crystal-clear, pale-to-golden yellow color, bordering on cream.  This, however, is where the similarities end.  Though the nose of each wine can be described as clean, fine, and sufficient, the Riesling Spatlese contains notes of violet, iris, honeysuckle, and a touch of berry, while the Almost Dry Riesling possesses a rich citrus fragrance of oranges and lemons, and also sports a soft peach aroma.  While both wines are smooth and delicious to taste, the Riesling Spatlese is much more round; the Almost Dry Reisling is light-bodied and lean.  The Riesling Spatlese is also quite sweet, while the Almost Dry Riesling (true to its name) is nearly void of any sugary taste.  Although both wines are harmonious, elegant Rieslings, the Riesling Spatlese can be described as being more “velvety” when compared to the “sincere” nature of the Almost Dry Riesling.  Though these two wines are delightfully similar in appearance, their distinct personalities are made apparent by comparison.

As in our previous Red and White Zinfandel blog post, it’s quite amazing how the same grape can yield two very good-but-different wines!  But, no matter how sweet or dry, Rieslings are a perfect wine to enjoy on a hot, summer day! Why not conduct your own Riesling comparison this season?

 C.H. Berres Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 1997Montinore Estate Almost Dry Riesling 2009

Wine Review: Piesporter Michelsberg 2009

May 16th, 2011 No comments

Piesporter Michelsberg 2009 Riesling

A white wine with a light golden color (and subtle hints of blue), this inexpensive summertime sipper hails from the banks of Germany’s Mosel river in Trier.  Though the nose is on the weaker side, this light, crisp wine is well-balanced.  Its body is delicately creamy, consisting of a subtle buttery texture slightly reminiscent of a Chardonnay.  Interestingly, the Piesporter Michelsberg 2009–which is a Riesling, by the way– contains flavors of numerous fruits with varying degrees of sweetness, as well as citrus fruits (including tart hints of green apples), that allow it to stimulate all of your flavor-detecting neurons.  I found this breadth of flavor to be a curious treat, much more apparent in this wine than in other Rieslings I’ve recently tasted.  With mild acidity, the eight to ten second finish is satisfying-but-short, leaving the drinker yearning for another quick sip.  The wine works as-is on its own, or you can pair it with light dishes.  The latter suggestion is preferable, given the quick duration of the finish.  Though this is certainly not the “best” Riesling available, I find it very decent given the price range it normally inhabits: $8 to $12 a bottle!  Not too shabby!

Mosel River image courtesy of

Wine and Food: What Not To Mix

Wine and Food Pairing pic courtesy of

We’re often told what wines go well with certain food items, but we rarely discuss which wines and foods don’t mix well.  Here’s a few “don’ts”

  • Though a Chardonnay pairs well with chicken, salmon, and creamy sauces, it fails to delight when sipped with hot, spicy foods!

  • Even a good bottle of Pinot Noir can become offensive when served with hot and spicy foods, and vice versa.

  • If you’re having a semi-spicy dish filled with tomatoes, it’s best to avoid serving Pinot Grigio–the wine often mistakenly believed to “go with everything”.

  • Dry Rieslings do not mix well with sweet foods and sugary dessert items.

  • Neither will Sancerre or a Merlot (though many people often try the latter and are surprised by the unpleasant result!)

  • When serving fish dishes, avoid serving a Shiraz.  And even a decent Cabernet may be too much for select fish dishes–it depends on the fish, and your taste!

  Remember: it’s all about balance.  You don’t want a strong wine to overpower a light food item, or a hearty dish to overpower a lighter wine.  Have fun with your wine pairing adventures, and refer to the advice above to avoid any (unpleasant) surprises!

Wine and Cheese, Please!

April 27th, 2011 No comments

Wine and cheese image courtesy of

Wine and cheese platters are customarily a part of many people’s celebrations. But choosing the right cheese to accompany your wine of choice, or vice versa, is not always easy. And just as serving wine at an improper temperature can bring out its worst, serving a badly-paired cheese will also impair the taste of a wine. That said, here are a few general tips when pairing wines with cheeses.

White wines are best served with soft cheeses (including spreadable ones) and stronger-flavored cheeses. Chardonnay pairs well with Cheddar and Provolone, Gewurtztraminer is nice with Swiss cheese, Rieslings are great with Gouda and smoked Gouda, and Sauvignon Blancs pair nicely with goat cheese. Rich, stimulating cheeses are best paired with sweet wines, the sweetness being matched by the “bite” of the cheese. For example, Stilton and Roquefort cheeses go well with Sauternes. Hard and mildly-flavored cheeses pair well with most red wines. Sharp Cheddars pair well with Cabs, Asagio, Parmesan, and Gorgonzola are nice with Amarone. As a final observation, exceptionally sweet and fruity white wines (mostly dessert wines) pair well with almost any cheese. This is because they overtake the fat found in cheese and thus allow you to still easily taste the wine.

Whenever a celebration calls for wine and cheese, use these suggestions to help you bring together two that are complementary. (A personal favorite of mine is Shiraz with Extra Sharp Cheddar.) So go ahead! Pour some wine, slice some cheese, and enjoy!

Wine Review: Sheldrake Point’s 2008 Late Harvest Riesling

October 25th, 2010 No comments

This weekend, I had a change to visit Sheldrake Point Winery in New York’s beautiful Finger Lakes area.  Sheldrake Point is one of the most picturesque wineries I’ve ever visited, with rows of grape vines sloping gently down towards deep blue Cayuga Lake, the fall foliage resplendent in the background.

I was lucky enough to get to sit down with Sheldrake Point’s winemaker, Dave Breeden, and sip quite a few great wines.  My favorite wine of the many great wines that we sampled was Sheldrake Point’s 2008 Late Harvest Riesling.  And no wonder: it was named the best sweet Riesling in the world at the 2010 Canberra International Riesling Challenge in Australia.  The cool climate of the Finger Lakes district makes for ideal Riesling-growing conditions, and Sheldrake Point really takes advantage of this, producing a large number of Rieslings and Gewürztraminers, which are similar both in taste and required growing conditions.

Now, I’ll admit first off that I’m not usually a fan of sweet wines.  In fact, I’ve never before tried one that didn’t remind me of grape juice.  But Sheldrake’s 2008 Late Harvest Riesling really changed my mind.  Yes, this is a sweet wine, and very sweet at that, with a 20% sugar content.  But sweet is certainly not the first word that comes to mind when you’re sipping this wine.  What does come to mind is that elusive quality winemakers are always striving for: balance.  There’s a fruity apricot and apple taste and sweet, sensuous honey flavor perfectly balanced by a bright, citrusy acidity and a spicy, slightly peppery finish.  This is a dessert wine that you’ll want more than one glass of.

So if  you love sweet wines, rush out and buy a case of this immediately.  And if you’re like me and think you hate them, pick up a bottle of Sheldrake Point’s 2008 Late Harvest Riesling and give it a chance to change your mind.

Which Wines Age Well?

September 7th, 2010 No comments

Some VERY old bottles. Let’s hope they have what it takes to open up well!

Aging a bottle of wine has a very distinct, qualitative effect on the contents. But it’s a very unpredictable effect. This leaves wine aficionados in a rough place–you don’t want to spend the time and the money aging a nice bottle of wine, only to open it up and find out that: a) you didn’t wait long enough, b.) you waited too long, or c.) it wasn’t a good candidate for aging anyway. Although wine aging is imprecise, there are some clues that can help you, like some psychic detective who figures out the crime in advance, determine the right bottles to cellar.

Sugar content and alcohol: A high percentage of sugar and alcohol slows the aging process, keeping the wine chemicals from reacting too fast and becoming unbalanced, or worse, turning to vinegar.

Tannins: Highly tannic wines are generally great candidates for aging. Tannins are phenolic compounds present in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes (and thus, usually only in red wines). You know the wine you’re drinking is tannic when it gives your mouth a dry, puckering sensation that can be very unpleasant. But as tannins age, they bind to each other, losing their astringent quality and making the wine supple and smooth. They also bind to other compounds in the wine, changing their chemistry and giving the wine new, complex flavors.

Structure: Tannins don’t mean good aging by themselves. They need the proper acidity and fruitinesss to back them up.  Having great tannins or wonderful fruitiness alone isn’t enough. A wine that will age gracefully needs to have a backbone–or “structure” to it that will keep the wine from deteriorating into muddiness as it ages. A wine with good structure should have tannins backed up by distinct acidity and concentrated, nuanced fruit flavors.

Varietals that age well:

Riesling: A wonderful candidate for aging. A good Riesling can go on improving, growing rounder in flavor, virtually forever.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabs from Bordeaux, California, and many other places have the bold richness needed to age well. When determining whether a Cab will develop delicious secondary and tertiary flavors, ask yourself if it has the structure, tannins, and richness of fruit needed to hold up to years of aging.

Chardonnay: It depends. A rich, buttery Chardonnay doesn’t have the structure to age well and will fall apart within a few years. But acidic Chardonnays with rich mineral tastes can very well improve with aging.

Fortified wine: Port, Madeira and the like age wonderfully because their high quantities of sugar and alcohol act to slow down the aging process, meaning that they can open well after even hundreds of years.

Pinot Noir: Professional opinions vary. Many experts think that the taste of a young Pinot is so great that you shouldn’t hang on to one for more than five years. But others hold that a well-aged Pinot is the holy grail of the wine world. This grape, so unpredictable on the vine, is unpredictable in the cellar too.

Syrah: Most Syrahs age well, but only up to a limit–about 10 years.

Merlot: Merlot is a very forgiving wine. Many bottles taste great young, but will still benefit from some time in the cellar. So Merlot is a great varietal to experiment with–try a variety of ages and see what suits your tastes.

Zinfandel: Like Cabernet Sauvignon, many Zinfandels have the potential to age to greatness.

Old Italian wines: Yes, they’ve already been aging, so you might say they don’t count, but these wines can make a valuable addition to your cellar. Italian wines from the 50s and 60s age wonderfully because they were made by farmers with primitive equipment. Their wines ended up very high in tannins, making them great aging candidates.

Varietals that don’t:

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and most Rosés: They don’t have the structure necessary for good aging.

Wines under $15: They’re made to drink now.

Champagne: Though some champagnes can age well, becoming rounder, softer, and less bubbly over time, most are not meant to. If you’re holding on to a 20-year old bottle from your wedding, you probably won’t like it.

Why age at all?

You may have heard that since most wine nowadays is drunk within 48 hours of purchase, winemakers are starting to cater to the customer who plans to open the bottle right away. There is some truth to this statement–some winemakers, for example, are tending to harvest Cabernet Sauvignon grapes when they are very ripe–almost too ripe. This results in a wine that is high in fruit, acid and tannins, meaning that you can drink it younger, but not necessarily that it tastes good. Wines like this lack the subtlety and grace of a “true” Cabernet Sauvignon, which has a richness of background flavors that makes drinking it anything but a one-note experience.

Wines that have the foundational flavors to age well–a balance of tannins, acids, fruit, sugar, and alcohol, will develop secondary and even tertiary flavors, meaning that the wine will keep surprising the palate with new tastes and aromas from the first sniff to the end of the bottle. These flavors, which can remind the drinker of smoke, leather, figs, soil, or a thousand other subtle smells and tastes, make the drinking of a properly aged bottle a completely unique experience.

Hints for wine collectors:

No one can predict the perfect age at which a wine should be opened.  If you want to come as close to perfect as possible, the best thing to do is buy a case of wine at a time, and open a bottle every so often to gauge how it’s coming along. And don’t think of it as a waste–it’s an entertaining an educational experience to see how the flavors change as a particular vintage matures. Alternatively, you can look online to find people who have opened the vintage you’re holding on to, and see what they thought of it. This is the best way to determine the right age.

Be sure to keep tabs on the ages of the wines in your cellar. Remember that there’s no use aging wines if you’re just going to let them turn to vinegar in a forgotten corner. Keep tags on your bottles‘ necks so that you can read the label without disturbing the contents, and keep a detailed record of everything in your winery, whether on paper or digitally (such as with an  eSommelier wine cellar management device). Don’t forget to include tasting notes when you finally open the bottle.