Normally, you do not associate white wines with aging. Enjoy them young, with frisky spring flowers in the nose and green fruits on the tongue.
Riesling can be made that way, but high acidity and flavor range also makes Riesling king of whites for aging. Dry Rieslings can age 15 years or more, semi-sweets 20 years or more, and sweet Rieslings more than a century. A barrel in Bremen, Germany, dates back to 1653.
Top that Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Riesling is the world’s third-most planted white grape and the number one white grape in Germany.
Riesling thrives in cool climates. It benefits from Botrytis Cinerea (“noble rot”)—a mold that attacks grape skin, allowing water to evaporate and sugar to concentrate. Such grapes make some of the world’s most wonderful, expensive, and long-lived wines.
Riesling insists on doing its own thing. It does not like malolactic fermentation (which softens Chardonnay), does not blend well with other grapes (used to tame Sauvignon Blanc), and does not play well with oak (which stomps on Riesling’s delicate peach, apricot, and citrus flavors). It is the only wine where a faint smell of petroleum (“petrol”) is a sign of quality.
Terroir (taste of the soil) heavily affects Riesling, evoking a delicate balance between flavors of the berries and mineral flavors of the soil. Riesling pairs with many foods, from fish and pork to spicy Thai and Chinese. Enjoy today—or a hundred years from now.
• Bridgeview Blue Moon Riesling. Fruits galore, refreshing acidity, from Oregon. $12
• Selbach Riesling Kabinet. Honeydew, petrol, lemon. $15
• Wilhelm Bergmann Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Auslese. Late harvest sweetness abounds. $18