Rediscover Riesling: The World’s Most Versatile Varietal

By Melissa Pulvermacher

The number one question I receive is: “What is your favourite wine”?

I could give a long-winded answer about how it all depends on the situation, the people I’m with, the food I have or don’t have, the weather, my mood and several other ridiculous factors that would probably influence what my favourite would be in that exact moment, but if forced to answer simply, I would choose a varietal that I admire most.

Of course, I have off and on romances, newly discovered lust and evenings with old flames, but if I had to settle down and commit to one single varietal, I’d choose Riesling. That’s probably an exaggeration, but the point is that in my eyes, Riesling is the noblest grape of them all.

Not to sound too cult, but Riesling has not only been long considered one of the greatest vinifera varietals throughout history, but its natural phenolic breakdown and ability to wear many hats makes it unbeatable in my books.

Riesling is naturally high in acid and grows phenomenally well in cooler climates. The acid and sugar levels are what contribute to Riesling’s ability to be produced bone dry, dry, sweet, sweeter and even luscious.

This acidity is also what makes a dessert wine made from Riesling still feel balanced and also what makes Riesling one of the most ageable wines in the world.

I was pleased to join fellow wine drinkers at the iYellow Wine Cave to cheers this noble grape and delve into what is probably known as the most famous Riesling producing region – Germany of course.

Germany not only has several regions that produce Riesling of different styles, but they also have an intricate system that classifies a wine as table wine, dry wine, sweet wine or botrytised wine.

The Wines of Germany Association in Canada does a wonderful job of showcasing Germany’s best and educating local consumers on the wonders of the regions.

Last summer, the association started what was called “31 Days of German Riesling,” which not only promoted German Riesling, but really helped initiate conversation, leading to appreciation.

As noble as I make it sound, the truth is that Riesling also sometimes comes with a negative stigma. I’ve heard more often than not that people hate Riesling because it’s “always sweet” or “cheap”.

The reality is that as mentioned before, Riesling can come in so many different packages and while you can certainly indulge in the super affordable, high in sugar, drink with the girls Riesling, you can also end up discovering some of the most incredibly balanced, high-quality wines you may ever taste… so it’s worth giving the grape more credit.

The Wines of Germany inspired The Vino Enthusiasts to discover more. This Wine Club was hosted in Guelph, Ontario with local Sommeliers, Wine Pros, Restaurateurs and everyday consumers with the theme ‘Rediscover Riesling’ where the group tasted more German Rieslings alongside a few local gems.

It’s no secret that Germany continues to deliver fantastic Riesling, but locally in Ontario, we’re also making some of the world’s best Riesling in my opinion. We have the perfect climate to produce Riesling of all different styles and it’s certainly worth exploring as you rediscover this grape.

The Rieslings tasted throughout the evening included:

The best part about tasting with such a diverse crowd is that every palate is different, but valid. Every person is able to share their favourites, their dislikes and then discuss personal preferences. The Wine Club began with a blind tasting where every person was asked to rank their top 5 favourite Rieslings of the evening.

The top picks from the crowd included:

  1. Thirty Bench Riesling 2014
  2. Laurentius Leiwen Spatlese 2011
  3. Norman Hardie Riesling 2014
  4. Cave Springs Riesling 2013
  5. Pauly Bergweiler Riesling 2010

Others that were raved about in the group tasting included Henry of Pelham Riesling 2013, Rethink Riesling 2012 and Clean State Riesling 2013.

Thirty Bench’s bone dry 2014 Riesling of Niagara cleansed our palates, left us salivating and won over the hearts of every single club member, while the luscious and honeyed character of Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Riesling 2010 of Germany was appreciated for its depth and complexity.

Both Norman Hardie’s 2014 Riesling of Niagara and Prince Edward County and Cave Spring’s 2014 Riesling of Niagara were favourited for their typicity, balance and ability to pair with the food on the table.

Both German and Ontario expressions of this noble grape were received very well by both Somms and everyday consumers.

The reality was that all of the wines were considered palatable and nothing was outrageously rejected, which is not always the case at these wine clubs. The main lesson for everyone was that they realized they genuinely enjoy Riesling in one or more styles despite preconceived opinions coming in.

If you already love Riesling, drink on. If not, explore more and rediscover this noble grape.


About Melissa Pulvermacher

Melissa is an Independent Wine & Spirits Consultant, Feature Wine Columnist and founder of The Vino Enthusiasts Wine Club. Melissa is educated through The Wine and Spirit Education Trust and is passionate about all things food and wine.



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