Quick! Imagine yourself in a restaurant or wine shop. You want a Riesling wine, yet you are savvy enough to know this grape lends itself to luxuriously rich dessert wines or bone dry wines with incredible mineral content. Just looking at the label, how are you able to figure out where this wine stands on the sweet/dry level?
Most wine savvy Riesling connoisseurs know the wines of a few favorite producers, yet vintage variation is such that wines from the same producer may be produced dry in some years, off-dry in others. Service staff at shops and restaurants can certainly offer insight, but realize this individualâ€™s threshold for sweetness may not match your own. For aficionados of bone dry, mineral-rich Riesling, receiving a sweeter-than-expected wine can result in disappointment.
Perhaps this is why the International Riesling Foundation (IRF), in combination with the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (from the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York), put together a tasting presentation moderated by Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan (and President of the International Wine Center) comparing Riesling from the Finger Lakes District to other Rieslings around the world. The objective was to showcase the new Riesling Taste Profile created by the IRF, designed to help consumers predict the sweetness level on a particular bottle of Riesling.
During the presentation, mention was made that some educational facilities, such as the Wine & Spirits Educational Trust, taught students to classify Rieslings as either â€śdryâ€™ or â€śoff dryâ€ť or â€śsweet.â€ť The IRF has created four â€śstylesâ€ť of Riesling: dry, medium dry, medium sweet, and sweet, to help winemakers consider which terms to use for their wines.
As you can imagine, just as individuals have difficulties communicating sweetness levels (ask a different sommelier or server what he/she thinks about a sweetness level, you will get many different answers), winemakers — especially winemakers from other countries — have different standards of what constitutes â€śsweetâ€ť and â€śdry.â€ť
This said, Ms. Ewing Mulligan and her team at the International Wine Center tasted several different Rieslings worldwide for this presentation, finding the best examples to put into three categories for the tasting: Dry Rieslings, Medium Rieslings, and Medium Sweet Rieslings.