Summer is here. Officially. Today. Right now. It is the Solstice (and it is scorching hot, in case you needed further proof!). That means the Summer of Riesling is now in full effect. Time to make a serious dent in the stainless vats holding the bounty of this great and noble grape, now made in nearly every corner of the world and made certainly more popular by Paul Grieco (thanks AcidHound for paving the way!) and his campaign to give Riesling its worthy trophy. It is funny that there is such a contest to prove how great this one little grape can be. It has suffered the cycles of poor presentation in markets around the world and has never quite shaken it’s lowly (unfairly adorned) reputation for overly sweet blah. It has fought the good fight to regain a chance at the title. It may now be in the top ranks among everyday drinkers (thank goodness).
The trouble riesling faces, ironically, lies in its amazing ability to present itself in countless ways. It has remarkable range of ripeness, clarity, texture and vivacity. Yet, if a consumer only ever takes one sip, and it does not come across as the style preferred, it can suffer denial and be outcast for a long time. Until now, it has not been given the chance to show itself off. It needs a stage. A stadium perhaps. A floor to play itself through so that the world can see its best qualities. That could be the topic today: If the Grand Slam of Riesling were to happen, how would it play out? Maybe this image can help target how you would claim it as champion…
Presenting..The Riesling Open
May I introduce the players:
This is the top-ranked player in the riesling world: Acidity. This guy rocks with all of his electrifying dazzle, his ability to outlast everything on the palate and get to every corner. Just when you think he has run out, the kid keeps coming back and makes the point play out with nail-biting tension and keeps your mouth-watering for the next stroke.
His opponents are a wonder-duo:
The old-school, wood-armed, net-covering, everywhere man 3 Sugar and his partner,
The classic, austere ground-stroker, the champ from the baseline way back on the palate whose breed and class show nothing but a sense of his upbringing and training. This is #1 Sugar, the dry, stoic finisher. The rock.
So, how do these mega-stars of riesling fight it out? Well that’s all in how closely you watch and how engaging you find the match to be. Acidity rules the pace of riesling. It is the life beat of the game on the palate. He seemingly is everywhere, dancing, stretching and slicing up the palate. He is the superstar delight on the palate. This guy is ridiculous.
To counter that, Sugar plays in two ways (thus the doubles) as it can be coating, graceful, floating about the palate, lyrical and beautiful to watch (and taste). It seems to blanket the court and nullify the hard hitting Acidity with a gentle touch. It is the fruit enhancer and depth of play you hope for in the great ones. It alone could present a great challenge to Acidity.
When the front court sweetness run out, then the back court magic of dryness (Sugar in a minute amount) takes the lead with an in-exhaustive persistence and long gorgeous strokes. He just never seems to go away, almost as if the sweet side has left the court. For lovers of the long- match, this foe will delight. He gives you joy in the game being played on different surfaces: the hard slate and soft clays of the vineyards around the globe. You’ll love the dirt he kicks up racing back and forth because the sugar has let the ball pass by to the finish. Watching this against acid lengthens the court and the points play long.
So the game is yours depending how you want to watch the players in action.
Here’s a few ideas:
High Acid (3 on thewinearray scale) vs Low Sugar (1 on thewinearray scale), you will have a lean, tight match that will send ooohs and ahhs around the crowd. Tense and long.
High Acid (3) vs. Sweet Sugar (3), you will have a slower, game full of dynamic swings of acidity playing back by gentle lobs and drop shots of glazing court coverage.
Moderate Acid (a wine in the 5th set, say 2 on the scale (PS rielsing never goes below this!!!) vs. the twins (2 setting then by our scale) then you will have a curious, intriguing leisurely played contest where you can check the stats or simply enjoy.
In any case, this is what the conversation is in any riesling. The body generally is lean, which means lower alcohol and cleaner on your palate. Tannin is almost never in the conversation. Acidity needs a foil and Sugar is it. So play the volley back and forth while you taste. Give it a chance for the game to evolve. I promise you there will be spectacular moments. It is the game of the summer. We have it to watch in so many combinations.
Thanks for joining the game. Check out the schedule of events for the summer:
Game. Set. Match.