Sip on This: Not All Rieslings Are Sweet

Hello all… How are you? Have you heard? Not all Rieslings are sweet.

Actually, most Rieslings are dry (low in sugar). They have traditionally been made dry. The country that made them famous, Germany, prefers them dry. So where did we go wrong, and why is it so easy to find sweet Rieslings? Well… 156 pounds. That’s how much added sugar Americans consume each year on a per capita basis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Americans like sugar, and that’s why the typical $10-15 Riesling you find is semi-sweet or off-dry.

Dry Rieslings are out there just waiting for you. Germany mostly keeps dry Rieslings for itself. The region of Bordeaux also has a history of keeping their dry wines for itself. History has shown Americans prefer the fruity wines.

I admit navigating German wines is complex, but the good news is you are not limited to Germany in your search for great Riesling. Germany has inspired many winemakers worldwide to produce dry Rieslings. I have found dry Rieslings in France, Italy, California, New York, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. Why are so many countries trying to make good Riesling?

Hugh Johnson is the first bestselling wine writer worldwide. Here is what he has to say about Riesling: “It is the very essence of Riesling: fruity acidity that can hold the sweetness of honey, as it were, at arm’s length, the two elements balancing each other so that your mouth is aware only of a supremely salivating moment.”

Here are some terms on German wine labels that can help you understand your purchase:

Trocken – Trocken means dry: 9 grams per liter (g/L) of sugar (0.9%) max.
Halbtrocken – Literally, “half dry.” With 10-18 g/L of residual sugar (1-1.8%),
Feinherb – Not an officially regulated term, but generally means halbtrocken in style.
Classic – Used in conjunction with a grape variety, but without mention of village or vineyard, to denote “harmoniously dry” wines.
Selection – Similar in intent to Classic, but allows the use of site names, and requires handpicking and lower yields in the vineyards.

Wine regions outside of Germany have made it very easy by adding the word DRY on the front labels of their Rieslings.

Astor Wines has many dry Rieslings, such as:

Wagner Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes (NY, USA)
A zingy Riesling that hails from a 250-acre estate on Seneca Lake. This dry white wine is light and balanced, showing delightful stone-fruity Riesling character.
Yalumba Y Series Riesling (Australia)
If you’re in the mood for a drier style of Riesling that’s not from the motherland Germany, this warm-climate Riesling is for you. Dry on the palate, it boasts ripe peach and yellow-apple flavors with a mouth-filling texture.
Stock & Stein Riesling Trocken, Jakob-Kühn (Germany)
Stock & Stein translates to “the vine and the stone”, two things that are essential for producing great wine. Winemaker Jakob-Kühn strives to define this relationship and express the mineraled balance in his region’s wines. Bone dry and showing crisp acidity, with an aromatic nose of winter citrus and peaches.
Kurt Angerer Riesling Ametzberg (Austria)
Light-bodied and dry as a bone, this Riesling displays typical Austrian austerity. Mineral notes have a briny tang and are backed with cool acidity; the wine finishes with notes of grapefruit.