Wine & Cocktails

Remaking the Case for Riesling

Kirsten Dobroth
November 21, 2019

“Riesling is one of the most unique wines in the world,” says Root & Flower co-owner and Advanced Sommelier Jeremy Campbell. “It’s a wine of extremes; it really only grows best in the cold climates of the most Northern and Southern parts of the wine growing world where the grape struggles to ripen.”

It tends to elicit an extreme response, too. “There’s two groups of people that typically like Riesling—people that know nothing about wine and people that know a lot about wine,” laughs Campbell. So, what gives?

A little background

The best Rieslings in the world come from many places, like the Alsace region in France, Austria, Australia, and, of course, Germany. However, ask any wine geek which is the best, and they tend to agree that Germany, and more specifically, grapes grown along the Mosel River—a winding waterway that starts in France and cuts through Germany before it joins the Rhine—are some of the world’s most exceptional, and come from Riesling’s “Spiritual Home.” Riesling grapes cling to the walls in gorge above the Mosel River, and the varietal makes up 60 percent of the area’s vineyards. Mosel Riesling can be dry or sweet, pale or deep yellow, and contain a high acidity that’s often undercut by varying layers of sweetness. Hence the “extreme;” the acidity makes riesling one of the best pairing wines for food that’s traditionally hard to pair. Everything from spicy curries to fatty cuts of pork belly are fair game to pair with Riesling, as the wine’s acidity cuts through salt, spice and fat in a way few other wines can.

Riesling as a crowd pleaser

Because of Riesling’s versatility and nuances (that range from growing conditions to aroma and taste), wine geeks typically consider the varietal to be one of the most unique and revered in the world—but that doesn’t always translate to the average consumer. “People say they hear it [Riesling] goes well with food, but they don’t end up spending on money on it,” explains Campbell. “Part of that is that when you drink it by itself, Riesling can be polarizing, but when you have it with food, that’s where it can bring everyone together.”

Root & Flower always keeps a riesling by the glass on the menu; Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling from the Mosel is our go-to pick that’s a great value and an excellent wine to pair with food. For the full effect, pair it with R&F chef Matt Limbaugh’s shrimp and coconut curry soup (a menu favorite) that comes with pickled carrots, Thai basil, crushed peanuts and cilantro. It’s a great gateway pairing that might make you start thinking outside the box when it comes to the wine—even as a go-to pick to sip with savory dishes throughout the winter, like slow-cooked stews and holiday roasts (and turkey!). Pro-tip: offer pours of riesling with cheese (especially hard, aged cheese) and charcuterie at holiday parties for a lip-smacking finish.

“In my own wine cellar, Burgundy is my first love, I’ve got a bunch of Barolo and some Bordeaux,” says Campbell. “Riesling and Champagne aren’t in my cellar because I like them too much so they don’t stay there for too long.”