Jun 262013
 

Riesling holds a special place in the hearts of many in the wine trade. From sommeliers to wine buyers to collectors, ask any of them what varietal they prefer to drink, and chances are that many of them will tell you: Riesling (that and/or Pinot Noir). That includes me.

Consumer Perception

Unfortunately, Riesling suffers from a slight image problem. Blame it on Blue Nun if you wish (which, by the way, didn’t have a Riesling varietal wine until recently), but many American consumers view it as a sweet wine their grandma drank (if she wasn’t drinking beer). California producers perpetuated the problem by making off-dry Riesling wines in the 1970s and 1980s. Not that there is anything wrong with sweet wines. I love them myself, but global tastes have migrated toward a drier style in wines in general (mostly).

Enter the wines of Alsace. Alsace is a region in France on the border of Germany which specializes in wines made from German varieties, such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Sylvaner. Most Alsatian Rieslings are almost entirely dry (i.e. no detectable sugar). The folks at the Wines of Alsace felt that it was a grave injustice to this noble variety to pigeon-hole it as “sweet” wine.  True, it can produce off-dry versions, but its innate acidity paired with Alsace’s unique location typically yields a dry, mineral-driven Riesling.

The Truth about Riesling

To combat this perception, The Wines of Alsace have published the infographic below. When I asked Louise Jordan at Teuwen Communications why they decided to take this approach to promoting the wines of Alsace in the U.S., she had the following to say:

The reason we created this infographic is because the majority of consumers still think all Riesling (not just Alsace) are sweet. And that simply is not true. We were also addressing the idea that consumers have a hard time understanding what exactly IS sweet. That is why we wanted to compare it to other beverages that are not typically thought of as sweet, such as skimmed milk. It is to start a dialogue about where Riesling is placed in the consumers’ minds, but also so they understand what is going on in their mouths when they taste something actually a lot sweeter than the average Alsace Riesling.

She goes on to state that every single wine or grape variety infographic she has seen from a whole range of sources always puts Riesling in the off-dry or sweet category. She makes a point that this is just simply not the case for all Riesling and a disservice to consumers when over-simplified all the time.

You might be as surprised as I was by the sugar level in these beverages. It’s an interesting concept, and one worth exploring.

For those interested, beginning in July, fans can submit their favorite dry Alsace Riesling and food pairings to @drinkAlsace using the hashtag #TryDryAlsace on Twitter for the chance to win two Riedel Grand Cru Riesling glasses. The contest will conclude July 31st with the announcement of a winner.

Riesling Infographic

Credit: Wines of Alsace