Riesling is always the next big thing, even though it’s been overtaken by a slew of other hip varieties. A few great examples and thoughts on why they suffer.
This week I spent several hours tasting through several dozen bottles of riesling. Riesling, as we all know, is one of those wines. We love it, we talk about it, sommeliers go gaga over it, and yet the marketplace doesn’t seem to care. Well that’s not really true, they do care about some — those that are cheap and sweet and those that come from hallowed ground, but what does the future hold for all the rest?
I love riesling, usually in a drier style, so Kabinett-ish suits me just fine, though the dry rieslings of Australia are my favorite wines from Down Under. Go figure. These wines remain value priced because so few people are buyers, and it’s not really from lack of promotion, though perhaps with the Australians, that may be part of the problem.
In all likelihood, riesling is the poster child for the identity crisis we claim affects so many grapes. We do it for syrah, claiming people don’t know what they’re getting in the bottle. It could be black and inky and brisk and savory, but so could pinot noir, right? I really don’t think that syrah is such a fundamentally more difficult wine to understand that pinot, so why the problems? And in truth, syrah with all its potential fruity goodness and sweet edge, seems ideally suited to today’s marketplace. Ditto riesling. I mean this stuff has always been sweet, so it’s not really even a change of style.
Thinking about it a bit more, that sweetness is of course part of the problem — Kabinetts sometimes drinking like Ausleses, rarely drinking like Kabinetts, with halbtrockens and trockens making thing even more difficult to decipher. I get the idea here, but I still don’t buy it. I can understand this accounting for some of the difficulty riesling faces, but people go through the same issues with dry wines. They like one pinot, then dislike the next. They work through a learning curve, often sticking to the first few wines they like, ultimately learning from their experiences. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why this is different for riesling and would love to hear your view on the matter.
I took a look at the wines here on Snooth and drew up a list of the top rieslings searched for to see what, if anything might be gleaned from that. In order the top 15 were:
- Barefoot Cellars
- Johann Falkenburg
- Schmitt Sohne
- Schloss Vollrads
- Blue Nun
- Black Tower
- Washington Hills
As expected, there’s a lot of value priced wine here, along with some top names. But one thing struck me. With maybe one exception, these are all wines that one would characterize as sweet, not super sweet, but noticeably and decidedly sweet. There is no huge difference among the wines on that front. Nothing that should shock a customer’s palate and put them off riesling for life.
If anything these wines are decidedly similar, and should afford the consumer the same selective opportunities they use to find their favorite pinots and chardonnays. So here I am, more confused than ever about the current state of riesling in the marketplace, but not yet complaining about it. I like the wines, and the prices, so trying to make them more popular seems a little counter-intuitive. I never thought my beloved barolos could win a broad popular audience (talk about a tough wine to warm up to) and we can all see what’s happening there.
I’ll leave you with notes on the top 10 winesI tasted this week. Curious to hear your opinions on them, if you’ve sold them, and how they’ve sold, as well your view on this whole riesling conundrum. I’m not sure we can solve it, but I sure would like to understand it better!
— Gregory Del Piaz, Snooth