Rieslings were among the first wines I ever purchased, because they were inexpensive and sweet. Years later, I had the opportunity to try more serious, well-aged Rieslings that were quite expensive and made for a transcendent tasting experience. But let's not forget that there's a broad middle range full of great, food-friendly wines that can appeal to a wide range of tastes and experience levels. Here's two I tried recently when Laura M. and her friend came over for dinner. (As a side note, Laura and I took German together in high school. No, we did not converse auf Deutsch during dinner.)
I served these convenient screwcap wines with two courses, but I left both bottles open throughout dinner. One a little sweeter, one a little drier, I felt it was easier to let the diners enjoy what they wanted.
First up was the slightly sweeter 2008 Fritz's Riesling from the Rheinhessen region of southwest Germany. $10, 10.5% abv. This wine is crisp with light citrus and lime peel aromas. Not too fruity, and not too sweet either. It's really well balanced. The wine is labeled with a distressed, punk font and simple design, and the additional marketing includes a little cartoon character, all part of the movement among some producers to put a more approachable face on German wines.
On the more serious side is the 2008 Kruger-Rumpf Münsterer Rheinberg Riesling Kabinett from the Nahe region, just west of the aforementioned Rheinhessen. $22, 8.5% abv. This wine is a classic Riesling, with aromas of wet granite, apricot nectar, green apple, and a touch of petrol. It goes down as smoothly as silk and has a very mild, delicate composition. If you've been drinking a lot of wines between 13-16% alcohol, it's a breath of fresh air to go back and try something like this that's under 9%. From a label perspective, this is definitely more traditional, and it bears the VDP eagle logo. For $22, this is an impressive bargain, and represents the style of German wine I like best.
The first course was linguine alle vongole, which is becoming a real favorite of mine, and with canned clams it's the kind of dish you can just slap together using odds and ends from the pantry. A little bite from the red pepper flakes makes a natural pairing with the Riesling. The second course (not pictured) was seared swordfish steaks with green beans. Neither dish was really German, but Riesling is so versatile and crowd-friendly that it's not difficult to find a decent match.
Big thanks to Laura M. for bringing homemade cupcakes topped with a lemon icing!
Note: These wines were received as samples.