Food & Wine Pros
Asian food isn’t the only way into German riesling
Having spent five days in Germany this week I’ve been thinking a lot about riesling and food. And my conclusion is that the heavy focus on Chinese, Thai and Indian food may be doing German wine a disservice
The main reason is that it perpetuates the perception that all German wine is off-dry or sweet - which is, of course, why so many of us have found it goes with spicy food - but that fails to reflect the fact that many German rieslings, even from the Mosel, are now dry.
The most cherished export market for many of the producers we spoke to is in fact not the far east but Norway, a country where the cuisine is in quite a different register. The crisp citrussy young rieslings that make up the bulk of wineries’ sales are as well suited to simply prepared seafood and fashionable pickled, smoked and foraged ingredients as they are to spicy food.
A Norwegian wine writer on the trip was singing the praises of drinking top quality dry rieslings with salmon and crab. And the food the Germans themselves seem to prefer - fresh tasting salads, soft light cheeses and pasta dishes work very well too though I think it would be more of an uphill struggle getting customers in the UK to switch from Italian whites to riesling with antipasti and pasta dishes.
There is some recognition of this switch of emphasis in the German Wine Institute’s own publication Nordic Pairings in which chefs and sommeliers from four Scandinavian countries come up with a selection of recipes and matching wines.They include salted seatrout, sorrel purée and vinegar-marinated cucumbers from Kari Aihinen of Finlanc, recommended with a young Mosel or Nahe riesling and salted cod, dirt-smoked lamb, whey BBQ and cauliflower (from Gunnar Gislason of Dill in Reykjavik, which is also paired with a ‘lean to medium-bodied’ young crisp Mosel riesling with little residual sugar, fresh acidity and pure minerality.
All this is not to say that there isn’t a role for off-dry riesling. One of the most memorable pairings of the trip (at Weinhaus Zum Krug) was a dish of rare venison with honeyed carrots and a walnut and potato terrine which skilfully played on the flavours of a mature spätlese riesling, a 2006 Oestricher Lenchen from P.J. Kuhn, but it was more a pairing for established riesling lovers.
If you're trying to convert new drinkers to dry riesling there are many less esoteric options such as riesling with fried chicken or even fish and chips.
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