The Big Fight Over Riesling

I don’t know, Rocky. Maybe if you were a little bit drier?

Riesling has been the source of a great deal of contention of late. Two wine critics seem to rather handily summarize the entrenched positions on either side of the debate.

In this corner: Steve Heimoff firmly positions himself amidst the jeering masses that dislike Riesling, and resents wine cognoscenti’s insistence that it be appreciated.

And in this corner, after a lifetime of trying to spread the Gospel about its virtues, Jancis Robinson worships Riesling as king, but now frets over its ability to fulfill its destiny and claim its throne among world markets, particularly in light of recent contracting sales data.

Thinking aloud about what may be holding Riesling back, Jancis notes its strong characteristic “flavour” (unexplained in youthful Riesling, and described as petrol in older Riesling).

There’s no denying Riesling ages into a petrol aroma, but, let’s fill in the blank … that youthful flavor is one of fruitiness: a blessed, fulsome fruitiness.

If we agree to take German Mosel Valley Riesling — the most edgy and rocky of all Riesling terroirs — as a yardstick, the terroir typically expresses itself in a fairly limited set of aromatic profiles: “… the most typical blue slate fruit-driven character is typically apple, white peach, or — if ripe — yellow peach; red slate, by comparison, offers more brawny, spicy minerality, and occasionally tropical fruit”1.

As we’ll see shortly, however, this fulsome fruity blessing is equally its curse.


  1. Quoth Ernst Loosen at an aged Auslese Tasting at Hearth, 9/15/2011, New York, NY []

Three Ways To Cheat at Food and Wine Pairing

Hold the frankincense and myrrh, we can sub these instead...
Hold the frankincense and myrrh, we can sub these instead …

Getting food and wine to play together nicely is all about taking time to identify bridge elements: aromas that neatly connect food and wine. That char on your salmon; those shishito peppers in your omelet … it’s these details that make all the difference.

But there is a way to cheat. Just hijack a somewhat bland or “undetermined” food by slathering it in a bridge element. And with a dash of faerie dust, your chicken transforms into what suddenly seems like the one true love for your Bourgogne.

The two spice blends below are gifts fit for a god, and offer an amazing return for your time or money, as they help your red wines connect in a heavenly manner to so very many foods …


Just the smell of roasted hazelnuts (think Nutella or nocciola gelato) plus lemony coriander seed is already enough to change your life. But the way it interfaces with red wines is remarkable.

It will adorn lamb, roast chicken, lentils, soups, toasted bread with olive oil, and you may even snack on it uncontrollably. A very dominant “this is what we’re doing now” spice blend, to be sure; nevertheless highly addictive.

You’ll make it in 25 minutes, then sprinkle it on your food for months.

A word about fresh spices: you NEED to monitor your spices for bugs or mold. Inspect with your nose and eyes before using. If your spices expired over a year ago, throw them away and then buy the smallest amount of not already rotten, cheap bulk spices as you require them. Aflatoxin B1 (from mold) is one of the worst carcinogens, and (Click to Read more)

The True Test of A Burgundy Lover

Village de la Côte de Beaune : Saint-Romain dans la brume. Photo: BIVB / JOLY M.
Village de la Côte de Beaune : Saint-Romain dans la brume. Photo: BIVB / JOLY M.

It was Kermit Lynch who wisely proffered the following edict many years ago1: “Get to know a producer through their Bourgogne; purchase a case”.

Great advice. A case of Bourgogne lets you see how a wine behaves differently in reaction to different foods and seasons, and becomes an inexpensive gateway to a producer’s style.

Honestly, I would even take this further, and say that you simply cannot pretend to love Burgundy if you don’t regularly drink Bourgogne.

It holds true for other noble wine regions as well: German estate Riesling, or Langhe rosso in Piedmont. Perhaps less so in places like Bordeaux, where a ‘second wine’ is too often a disappointment.

This is not about shaming wealthy people, nor is this a reaction to hordes of Internet braggarts posting photos of grand cru bottles for others to covet — it goes deeper than that.

It’s about loving all that Burgundy has to offer, and respecting the wine by recognizing that different wines work at different moments.

mr burns drinking
Will they ever bring me my spaghetti? This Bonnes Mares is getting warm.

Even if I were wealthy enough to buy a new house once mine became too dirty, I’d still drink great Bourgogne. You simply can’t (Click to Read more)

  1. Try as hard as I may, I can’t find the exact reference, but believe it was somewhere in Inspiring Thirst. []