58488.jpgWhatever notion you have aabout Riesling wines, put it aside for a moment. It’s hard to do because this is a wine that is often pigeon-holed, and is either loved or hated for it. It’s easy to conjure up memories of a German, sweet, fruity wine with concentrated flavors of peaches, apricots and minerality or a rich dessert wine – but that’s only part of the story. Riesling is one of the most difficult wines to categorize because of its versatility: it can be bone dry or intensely sweet. You can love it and hate it.

Growing in popularity are the dry styles of Riesling. These wines tend to be more food friendly and the perfect refreshment on a hot, sticky, summer afternoon. They still have those concentrated notes of peaches, apricots and minerality, but are crisp and have no residual sugar. One way to identify a dry Riesling from Germany is to look for the word “Trocken” on the label, which means dry. The Rieslings from Alsace in France are also a great bet as they are almost invariably bone dry. Australia has also joined the Riesling fan club and is producing wines in both the sweet and dry styles.

Since Rieslings are all over the place – both geographically and stylistically, and with the hot summer afternoons quickly approaching, we thought this would be the perfect wine to try with our tasting posse. The criteria was to bring a Riesling from anywhere in the world and in any style. All wines were tasted blind to keep us honest. As the tasting began, the group was remarkably quiet – which is quite shocking considering how much we like to hear ourselves talk. There was so much going on in the glass that it truly captured our undivided attention. That is, of course until it came time to discuss – then gloves came off.

1997 Trimbach Clos Hune, Alsace, France
Cost: Approx $115
Verdict – Hands down the best wine of the night.

This wine, brought by our new best friend Tim, a Sommelier, was intense, complex and illustrates what can happen when this amazing grape is in careful hands. With 9 years of age on this wine the notes were nutty, honey, petrol, apricot and at least 6 others we couldn’t identify. The length was extremely long. With its high price point, this is a special occasion wine, but we promise, it’s worth every cent.

2004 Weingut Andreas Laible Riesling Kabinett Trocken, Baden, Germany

Cost: Approx. $25
Verdict – We loved it, if only we could remember its name.

This wine was an overall crowd pleaser. It was dry, with crisp acidity, nice overall balance and intense fruit aromas of peach, apricot and minerality. This is a great wine to pair with light summer dishes and seafood.

2004 Glen Eldon Wines, Eden Valley Riesling, Australia
Cost: Approx. $14.00
Verdict – Liked by most, good value.

This dry Riesling had youthful aromas and flavors of peaches, lime and minerality. Abe, the winemaker in our group, quickly pointed out that this was a warm climate Riesling that used irrigation in the vineyard. He was awarded the wine genius award for the night and explained that the medium acidity, citrus notes and lack of fruit intensity pointed him in that direction. This wasn’t an overly complex wine, but for under $15, it's a good value and great to enjoy on a lazy Sunday.

Josmeyer Le Dragon Riesling, Alsace, France
Cost: Approx. $40
Verdict – Good but could be better

This Riesling from Alsace was a decent representation of the region with notes of minerality, honey, petrol, peach and apricot. It was dry, with medium intensity of fruit and a long length. The reason it didn’t blow away the crowd was we had to search for these notes, and it lacked the aromatic intensity that we love from Riesling.

2003 Kirchberg de Barr, Alsace, France
Cost: Approx $24
Verdict - Pass on it, or at least the 2003 vintage.

Since this is the wine that we brought, we might be slightly biased, but the rest of the group certainly was not. The problem with this wine was it has all the right things going for it in terms of complexity and length but unfortunately it lacked acidity to bring it all together. This is most likely due to the fact that it is a 2003 vintage, which was particularly warm in Europe, causing the grapes to lose some acidity.

2004 Frankland Estate Riesling, Clare Valley Australia
Cost: Approx. $15
Verdict – Our least favorite wine of the night

This wine was slightly unbalanced with fairly high alcohol (13%) that overshadowed the delicate peach and citrus notes.

The tasting was one of our favorites thus far. We found new reasons to love Riesling and were reminded of the many for which we already do. Do we still feel the same way about Riesling? That’s easy -- yes and no.