You may not have even tasted it but even so, you might still think you hate it.
Why? Can it be that the over-sulphured, over-sweet wines of decades ago are still casting a shadow over the wines of today, or is it just that reliable crisp, fresh zesty Sauvignon Blanc seems to do much the same job as Riesling.
With Riesling, there is always the chance that you might select one with a touch too much sweetness, or maybe there are too many wines from Germany that revel in Gothic script, long names and a few too many umlauts.
Whatever the problem, it is a shame to ignore one of the world’s great wines. So here’s a challenge. Just try a bottle of Riesling. See if you like it, teamed with fish, spicy foods or just on its own. If you don’t like it, then regard the whole thing as an experience.
Here are my top ten Riesling wines, some are from Germany, but this is a grape that can travel and produce different flavours. Try one from Canada, New Zealand, Australia or Washington State and taste the range of flavours this grape can produce.
Shh, It’s Riesling 2019, Mosel, Germany, Co-op £6: I love the name of this wine. Shh – don’t tell anyone it is Riesling. I had this same problem when my Australian friend came to stay for a couple of weeks. She declared that she drank only New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but pretty soon had worked through my stock.
So then I brought out various wines – Albariño, Vinho Verde, crisp Chardonnays and even a Riesling or two, without declaring what the wine was. All were greeted with delight and consumed with gusto. She believed they were all Sauvignon Blanc and delighted in the supposed various flavours this grape could produce.
This wine is crisp, lemony and dry – and if you like Sauvignon Blanc, you will probably like this. At this price, it’s well worth trying.
Sturmwolken Riesling 2020, Pfalz, Germany, Sainsbury’s, £7.50: With its dramatic, woodcut-style label, featuring lightning bolts, black clouds and an umbrella, you could be forgiven for thinking this is an old-school German wine. It isn’t.
Crisp and citrusy, with notes of tangerine, melon and with a distinct minerally crunch on the finish, it is just a shade off-dry, but that is barely noticeable in the melée of taste.
Freeman’s Bay Marlborough Riesling 2014, New Zealand, Aldi, £7.99: Check the vintage on this wine – it is 2014! Riesling ages well and this proves it. It has a whiff of deserted petrol stations, honey and lime on the palate and a weighty, rounded, long finish.
Just edging between dry and off-dry, I would be happy to drink this alongside creamy fish, sticky pork or an Asian spiced prawn stir-dry. It’s available in limited stock, so order now if you want some.
The Falls Riesling 2019, Niagara, Canada, Aldi, £9.99, online only: Aldi has made a name for itself by listing Canadian sweet wines at Christmas and clearly its Canadian connections have come up with a drier wine for spring. This comes from that sliver of land alongside Lake Ontario where the lake keeps the worst of Canadian winters at bay.
It has delicious floral aromas, with a lemon-driven palate, a touch of smoky complexity and a firm minerally finish. The website describes it as off-dry, but it tastes dry.
Villa Maria Riesling 2020, New Zealand, Waitrose, down from £10.99 to £8.24 until May 4: Having conquered the Sauvignon Blanc shelves, New Zealand is turning its attention to other grapes and Riesling is doing rather well.
This has bright floral aromas, like an English garden in spring, with yellow fruits such as apricots, mandarin and nectarine shining through. A touch of ginger-spice balances the very slight off-dry style, ending with a blast of zesty citrus.
Fritz Willi Riesling 2018, Mosel, Germany, Latitude Wines, Leeds, £12.50: The grapes for this wine are grown on the steep, slate-covered slopes of the Mosel and the wine is made in ancient cellars under the city of Trier. Described as “Feinherb” on the back label, this indicates that the wine is very slightly off-dry, although this hardly shows above the floral aromas, citrus and stone-fruit flavours with a distinct, long, smooth finish. Try with grilled scallops.
Robert Oatley Great Southern Riesling 2019, Western Australia, Bon Coeur Fine Wines, £14.29: Winner of many gold medal and trophy accolades from serious wine shows, this wine clearly deserves them. The cool breezes of Western Australia show in the wine’s positive citrus and honeysuckle nose, lean, fresh lime acidity and a concentrated, dry finish.
Exhibition Rheingau Riesling 2018, Germany, the Wine Society, £14.50: The Rheingau is a magical collection of vineyards that perch on slopes overlooking a bend in the river Rhine which gives them sunshine all day, ripening the grapes to flavourful perfection.
This wine is made by one of the stars of the Rheingau, Gunter Künstler who specialises in making drier styles of wine. It has peach, lemon and apple fruit, concentrated and round, with a bite of minerals and freshness. Big enough to accompany salmon, pork and Asian spice.
Ch. Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling 2019, Columbia Valley, Washington State, USA, Latitude Wines, Leeds, £14.50: With 3,500 acres of land east of the Cascade mountains in Washington State, Ch. Ste. Michelle is the largest single producer of Riesling in the world.
This is a dry region, and vines are ungrafted because the pest phylloxera has not managed to gain a serious foothold in the region. This gives the vines more longevity and perhaps the grapes develop bigger flavour profiles. The result is a crisp, dry wine, with apple and nectarine fruit, edged with ginger spice and ending fresh and bright.
Hugel Classic Riesling 2016, Alsace, France, Derventio Wines, Malton, £16: Cross the border between Germany and France and it is surprising how tastes and winemaking change. This comes from one of the best producers in Alsace, made from hand-harvested grapes grown on slopes around Riquewihr.
It is dry, bright, floral-edged and fresh as a daisy with lemongrass, minerals and a touch of herbs. Perfect alongside shellfish and fish.