Anthony Rose: 'People like character in their wine'


Ever wondered why riesling is not as popular as chardonnay? Or why pinot grigio is as popular as it is? Could it be because people like character in their wine, but not too much? Riesling is an acquired taste because its thrilling bite is more of a challenge compared to the crowd-pleasing delights of chardonnay or pinot grigio.

Riesling has also been the victim of the poor publicity meted out to its lesser middle European counterparts and suffered at the hands of producers who used to think it necessary to add sugar to help the medicine go down. As a dry style, its reputation has been resurrected by the zesty rieslings of Australia. The 2010 Jacob's Creek Riesling, £7.79, Waitrose, with its lime-fruit quality and bone-dry finish, is as good a place as any to start. For its lemon and lime tang, the 2009 Barossa Cross Riesling, £7.99, Laithwaites (, is in a similar vein.

The capacity to improve with age gives riesling its extra dimension. Take a great Aussie riesling such as the 2010 Crawford River Riesling Henty, £23.80, Imbibros (, intensely aromatic with tropical fruit opulence and refreshing zest. It will age beautifully. At four years old, the floral Kiwi 2008 Thornbury Riesling, £10.44,, is already morphing into a wine with toasty qualities, suggesting sweetness but finishing dry.

But it's riesling's own heartland of Germany itself that's now in the forefront of the dry revolution. Yes, we still tend to think of German riesling as on the sweeter side. Crisp and citrusy styles like the 2010 Dr Loosen Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinet, £11.99, Sainsbury's, make that point. Appetising, off-dry whites such as the peachy 2010 Mineralstein Riesling, Pfalz, £8.49 at Marks & Spencer, with its zingy freshness, reinforce it.

Thanks to an emphasis on wines to drink with food, German riesling has re-invented itself. In the past five years, drier styles of riesling have overtaken both its off-dry and sweet counterparts. It's a trend that's set to continue, placing Germany centre stage as the country with the greatest expression of fine dry rieslings in the world.

You might try the 2009 Georg Mosbacher Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Pfalz, £16.99, Waitrose, a refreshing dry white with intense stonefruit concentration. Even the Mosel, where delicate sweet rieslings hold sway, is getting in on the dry act. The 2008 Sybille Kuntz Estate, £14.05, The Sampler (, has a floral and lime citrus aroma with a fresh lemon and lime fruitiness. More is yet to come.