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Wine for Christmas Dinner: Dry Riesling

When the Christmas table is covered with many different dishes of food it can be difficult to decide what wine might best go with them all. Why not try a dry Riesling? Considered one of the most food-friendly wines, a dry Riesling is crisp, light bodied and offers a floral bouquet and fruity flavors that pair well with everything from turkey, ham and seafood to mashed potatoes, vegetables, and dessert.

You might think that Rieslings are sweet; many are but a good number are not. The Rielsings from Alsace (France) in particular are dry yet have the same bouquet and flavors as their sweeter cousins from Germany and Washington State. Some dry Rieslings are produced in the United States but they are difficult to find. How can you determine if a Riesling is dry or not? In the United States the label may indicate the dryness but even when it does you can’t be sure the label accurately reflects the contents of the bottle. Terms referring to dryness in wine are not regulated here so a label can say whatever the winery decides and often the labels say what appeals to the largest number of consumers. The best way to find a bottle of dry Riesling is to check the alcohol content; if the wine has 12.5% or higher alcohol content it will taste dry.

Riesling is one of the world’s greatest white grape varieties. It is grown best in cool climates where the slow ripening grapes can develop their full potential. The wines produced from these grapes reflect the nature of the environment where they are grown and are rarely oaked or blended. The aroma is floral with fruit and honey, and the flavors full of apple, pear, apricot pineapple, citrus and sometimes earth and mineral. Although Rieslings are usually drunk when young, their high acidity allows them to age well and they can develop some interesting flavors including petrol like kerosene.