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Riesling can be a pleasant white-wine surprise

Consumer Reports News: September 26, 2011 03:23 PM

Riesling ranges in style from lean and drier wines through rich and sweet dessert offerings. And even to sparkling versions and a riesling relative, as I discovered at an event called Wine Riot this past weekend.

Most of the rieslings I tasted there--and all of the ones in our most recent Ratings, available to subscribers--are still wines. But I also tried a sparkling riesling that was released to the North American market just this month.

It's from Dr. Loosen, a storied producer of the varietal from Germany. And while my oenophilic expertise and rigor pales next to that of our wine experts, who have decades of experience and taste multiple lots in blind tastings, I enjoyed sampling Dr. Loosen Sekt Sparkling Dry Riesling (shown at right).

Dry and clean, it reminded me a little of some prosecco, though with more bubbles. And like almost all prosecco, and most of the sparkling rosés in our Ratings (available to subscribers), this wine is a modestly priced, if less complex, alternative to champagne; it sells for around $13.

I also tasted a riesling from Washington state that's a joint effort between Dr. Loosen and Chateau Ste. Michelle. To my palate, Eroica riesling seemed well-balanced and off-dry but, at around $20 a bottle it's pricier than many domestic rieslings.

Chateau Ste. Michelle's 2007 regular riesling cost just $10 and did well in our 2009 tests, where experts deemed it to be well-balanced. While most of the CSM riesling now in stores is of 2010 vintage, it might be worth a try nonetheless; in the price range I which we typically test, wines are usually fairly consistent from year to year.

The supposed riesling relative is bukettraube, a German varietal that made its way to South Africa long ago and has a shared lineage with riesling. That's according to staffers at a booth that was offering Seven Sisters Odelia, a $14 bukettraube from South Africa with honey and floral notes that I liked. It's $14 and, though from a winery that was unfamiliar to me, is available nationally in outlets including Sam's Club, Albertsons, and Whole Foods locations that carry wine, according to Seven Sisters staff.

A high-quality riesling pairs with many kinds of food, ranging from spicy Asian to fruit salads and seafood. For more on matching wines to foods, see our advice on food-wine pairing.

Wine Riot is a series of wine events with a hipper vibe than most wine events; the Brooklyn event featured a DJ and crowd-sourced ratings of favorite wines, for example. The next Riot, and the last for 2011, is October 21 and 22 in Washington DC.

Paul Reynolds


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