What's a good riesling?
I am a newbie to the whole wine deal. I've enjoyed some rieslings. and was wondering what is a good one to buy out there that is under $30? I want something not very dry, light, refreshing and lightly sweetened.
If you ask me, there's great riesling all over the world... Germany, France, Australia, Austria, California, Washington... IMO it produces more good wines in more places around the globe than any other grape, including chardonnay and cabernet.....
But alot of purists are probably going to focus strictly on Germany and Alsace...
Probably the single-best place to start is the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of germany.... Here's a good overview of the major wine regions of Germany:
There are so many tremendous vineyards and wineries in this region, many of the vineyards dating back hundreds of years... the key is to focus on great VINTAGE YEARS. The "blockbuster" vintages of the past decade would include 2005, 2004, and 2001.
Just go to a well-stocked wine shop and look for Mosel wines from those years and you're not going to be disappointed... ask for the best bottles they have in your price range and "under $30" you'll have some incredible wines. I'd also rec. buying 1 bottle each of Kabinett, Spatlese, and Auslese to familiarize yourself with these different ripeness levels.
Start there... if you can read a German wine label you can read any wine label in the world.... then branch out and try an Alsatian, a Californian, etc. etc.... Always focus on great regions and vintage years and riesling will prove to be one of the most consistent wines out there, IMO.
re: Chicago Mike
I don't know about the availability in the SF area, but I would also recommend rieslings from Ontario, and British Columbia. It is probably our most consistantly successful grape type. I think that to begin, you're better off trying German and Alsatian rieslings, to get a good sense of that the 'classical' style is, but then move on to the Ont and BC ones. We are evolving a very interesting, unique style here. And, except for the (very expensive) Icewines, generally very affordable and versatile food matches.
re: Robert Lauriston
Just to let you know, because of our idiotic internal trade barriers in Canada, it is unlikely that you'll find the best Ontario rieslings in Vancouver, or the best BC ones in Toronto. Sad case, truly. Anyway, put up a thread when your trip is around the corner, and we can discuss different wineries and styles.
As to icewines, I think that Vidal is best as an icewine, rather than as a table wine (for which it's OK, but never great). The best icewine I've had was riesling (11 yr old Cave Spring), but I guess chacun son glace.
I agree with Mike (OMG! ;-p)...
Start in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. Get a Kabinett and/or Spatlese. I don't know where you live or what prices are like around there. But my favorite producer from the region is Willi Schaefer. Other ones to look out for are JJ Christoffel and JJ Prum. Not quite as good, but less expensive and still excellent is Dr. Losen. Also, it is not technically from the Mosel because of German laws, but in that spirit, I really like A.J. Adam as well.
For around $16 I totally agree with the Leitz Dragonstone suggestion. (From the Reingau). And for even less, the Dr. L (second label of Dr. Losen) is always nice.
I don't know where you live, but there are literally hundreds -- if not thousands -- of wines under $30 (most well under $20!) that will EXACTLY fit your wishes . . . ChicagoMike is exactly right when he cites, "Germany, France, Australia, Austria, California, Washington" -- to that I would add New Zealand and Canada. I've even had good Rieslings from New York State, Italy, Hungary and elsewhere, but let's not push things too far . . . .
AGAIN, I do not know where you live -- but my only "change" to ChicagoMike's excellent post would be to suggest that you start with that, with where you live. If, for example, you live in California, start there -- you'll probably find a better selection of CA Rieslings, and more easily, than you would (for example) Alsatian examples. Ditto if you live in Washington State. If you live on the East Coast, you'll find more German wines . . . .
REGARDLESS of where (what region) you start with, NOTHING is more important than starting with a great wine merchant -- a place with an excellent selection and knowledgable staff. They'll be able to help you far more than anyone here in terms of SPECIFIC recommendations.
You're in the San Francisco area? Go to K&L, Arlequin, Vintage Berkeley, Wine Mine, or Farmstead Cheeses & Wines and ask for advice.
Cost Plus in Oakland often has very good values on German Rieslings for under $10.
Get on the Age of Riesling mailing list and go to their tastings.
Alsatian Rieslings are usually bone-dry, and those that aren't are late-harvest dessert wines.