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Remarkable Rieslings, dry, from Austria

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Jay Reed, Alice Wentworth, Travis Mordus

Many wine drinkers in the U.S. think of German Rieslings as uniformly sweet. In recent decades, however, there has been a trend to produce dry wine. In fact, a great deal of the Riesling now consumed in Germany (and Austria) is dry. This swing does not always appear evident in U.S. wine shops, as most selections are dominated by sweeter wines.

Take, for example, the highly regarded Mosel estate Maximin Grünhaüs. In the U.S. the estate is best known for delicate, slightly sweet wines. However, most of the wine made by Maximin Grünhaüs is trocken, or dry. To be labeled trocken, a wine must have no more than 4 grams per liter of residual sugar. If a wine’s total acidity is high enough, up to 9 grams are allowed.

Wine importers such as Terry Theise and Rudi Wiest have been making available more dry Rieslings from Germany and Austria in the U.S. In a recent blind tasting of 14 dry Rieslings under $30 from these two countries, the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits encountered some truly compelling wines.

The staff’s top choice was the Petra Unger 2009 Riesling “Steinterrassen” from Austria’s Kremstal region. At $14 per bottle, it was also the best value of the tasting. Steinterrassen roughly translates into “stone terraces.” Indeed, the grapes for the wine come from extremely rocky soils high above the Danube. The wine is a real knockout in a fairly powerful style. Hints of apple, peach, honey, and slate are beautifully intermingled and are well supported by crisp, refreshing acidity. While not labeled trocken, its measly four grams of residual sugar make it fit the category.

Interestingly, only one wine received more than one first place vote. The Bründlmayer 2009 Riesling Kamptaler Terrassen ($24), also from Austria, was the enthusiastic top choice of two staff members. This zippy, bone dry Riesling is all about elegance, with a minerally finish that goes on forever.

Dry Riesling is one of the world’s most versatile wines at the table. Try these beauties with fish dishes, salads, stir-fries, duck, pork sausages, or for that matter almost anything that isn’t beef!

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