Instead of reaching for rosé or sauvignon blanc this summer, make Riesling your go-to. The wine, a European staple, is catching on everywhere – and with good reason. In addition to being the most aromatically complex white wine grape, Riesling is also incredibly versatile: It can be used to make sensational dry and semisweet wines, as well as world-class dessert wines. It is typically high in acidity, too, which makes it an ideal food wine.
Michael Madrigale, head sommelier at New York City's Bar Boulud, finds some diners resistant to Riesling, because they believe, mistakenly, that it is always sweet. He steers them in the opposite direction. "With dry Rieslings, the pairing opportunities are nearly endless," Madrigale says. "Against spicy food, they extinguish the heat. I also love them with tacos or crudo."
Though Germany, the French region of Alsace, and Austria reliably turn out the finest Rieslings, excellent vintages are no longer limited to the Old World. Australia produces very crisp, dry Rieslings that pair perfectly with seafood (something that can't be said of many European varieties). Perhaps most surprising, the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York has emerged as a fertile ground for Rieslings. Thanks to some pioneering winemakers, émigrés from Europe, the grape has been a signature of the area since the 1960s. But in the past few years, dynamic new wineries have boosted the overall quality of its Rieslings.
Need proof? Compare the selections on our list, which features varieties from all over the world. A full Riesling survey could take all summer – luckily, there's still plenty of time to get started.
Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese 2011 (Germany)
This creamy, complex, off-dry (meaning there's a good bit of residual sugar) wine is a testament to the genius of Helmut Dönnhoff, one of the world's foremost Riesling makers. [$50; wine-searcher.com]