Wine Dictionary

  • Halbtrocken: German for off-dry wine (.9 - 1.8% residual sugar)
  • Johannisberg: reference to the famous German wine estate, Schloss Johanissberg in Rheingau.
  • Liebfraumilch: German for 'milk of our Lady'.
  • Noble grape: a grape capable of transmitting the terroir of a place and produce complex wine that can age in the bottle.
  • Terroir: the sum of all the factors pertaining to a particular plot of land.
  • Trocken: German for dry wine (.9% residual sugar)


Thomas M. Ciesla
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Riesling is perhaps the most versatile food wine in the world. Where Chardonnay often slaps food, Riesling caresses it. Its marvelous acidity cuts through the flavor of rich cream sauces and softer delicate cheeses. It also matches well with meat dishes, poultry dishes and most seafood and shellfish. Riesling is also perfect Riesling for pairing with spicy Oriental or Cajun dishes. For salty foods in general the sweetness or fruitiness of Riesling is a match made in Heaven.

The key element in matching a wine with food is identifying the strongest-tasting element in the dish and then matching a wine to it. Since today's cooking tends to focus more on sauces, or herbs and spices, Riesling wines work well to accentuate these flavors. Therefore, by identifying the overriding taste component of a particular dish, you can generally choose the ideal Riesling wine style to accompany the taste.

A sweeter barbecued or caramelized dish would generally match well with a semi-dry or sweeter-style Riesling, whereas a cream sauce or very simple seafood entree would work better with a dry Riesling. Here are some other pairing tips:

  • Dry Riesling
    Most fish, lighter pastas
  • Semi-Dry Riesling
    BBQ, Grilled or smoked pork poultry and seafood.
  • Late Harvest Riesling
    Glazed ham, pork, poached pears, spicy food.
Riesling also is a great match with vegetable dishes and is one of the few wines that goes great with asparagus. As the selection of New World Rieslings continues to expand, wine drinkers have an ever increasing selection of producers to choose from in all price point categories. Experiment a little!   Try Riesling with those fish & chips, chargrilled chicken or Thai fish cakes w/sweet chili sauce. You won't be disappointed.



Has the new Riesling movement just begun? For Old World AND New World winemakers, the answer is an unequivocal YES!   German winemakers are experimenting with more dry Rieslings to appeal to a broader market, but confusing labels and difficult to pronounce words may hamper marketing efforts in the States. Experiments in new Riesling styles by New York and Washington winemakers, and the flood of Australian Rieslings filling our restaurant lists and retail shelves will definetly help wine drinkers take notice of new interpretations now available for this noble grape. Wouldn't it be ironic if the grape that once washed ashore as sweet & cheap, became the darling of America as a dry version of it's former self?

As for me — well, I'll simply use a line from the Godfather, "I drink more wine than I used to."   Increasingly, Riesling is part of that consumption.


Copyright, 2004 Thomas M. Ciesla

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