There are cycles in the life of a wine lover, and the Riesling cycle is not a Wagner opera but rather the fact that so many of us start out with Rieslings early on. They're sweet, fruity, low in alcohol, and fairly inexpensive. The tall, elegant bottles of Riesling from Hogue of Washington and V. Sattui of California were two of the first wines that I could identify by name and sight as opposed to just "random bottle of fermented grape juice". Bear in mind that we're talking about the mid-90s here, long before I started to seriously study the subject.
I eventually left behind those west coast Rieslings (as well as the various German bottles I chose based solely on price). I lost my sweet tooth, and got interested in more dry white wines or even aged white Burgundy. Years later, I circled back around to Riesling when I got the chance to try serious examples from Germany and beyond.
This particular triplet of samples represents three classic Riesling regions: Germany, Austria, and Alsace in Eastern France.
2011 Schlossgut Johannes Selbach Riesling Dry
$15, 13% abv.
Pleasantly dry with a touch of lemons. It is a great casual sipper, and as the piscine label indicates, it's a great pairing for gentle seafood dishes. A good bargain, and also an excellent introduction to the fact that Riesling does not have to be sweet but can focus on other facets as well.
2011 Domaine Ehrhart Riesling Vieilles Vignes
$16, 12.6% abv.
I'm so enamored of Alsatian wines these days, and this one did not disappoint. It opens up with Granny Smith apples on the nose. On the palate it is a little sweet with lots of bright acidity. Bring on the sausage, beans, and cabbage and enjoy the fall flavors.
2011 Salomon Undhof Steiner Kögl Riesling Erste Lage ÖTW
$30, 13.5% abv.
Austria is better known for Grüner Veltliner but they can also make elegant Riesling. This one is crisp and austere with excellent minerality and those great wet stone notes on top. It is gentle and well balanced with lots of subtle elements that show up as it warms.
Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.