Riesling the German Way 

It can be hard to find people to join you when you want to enjoy a sweet white.

Convincing one's dinner companions to split a bottle of Chardonnay, Zinfandel, or Pinot Noir isn't typically all that difficult. But say that you want to share some Riesling or Gewürztraminer, and you're usually on your own. People will pucker up their faces and protest, "Ooh, that's too sweet," before abandoning you for cocktails, beer, or wine by the glass.

That's why the annual St. Nick's Party hosted by my friends Wendy and Fredi seemed liked the perfect opportunity for a Riesling tasting. With a crowd of about thirty people, surely I could find at least three or four RieslingFreunde. St. Nick himself would be making an appearance later that night, and surely he must prefer crisp German whites to Spanish roses or California reds.

In the spirit of the party's theme, I selected German wines between $8 and $10. Imagine my surprise when half the party joined my tasting. It certainly didn't hurt that the dinner itself was a selection of tasty Vietnamese dishes with which the wines were perfectly paired. I liked all four wines, although two clearly stood out to me and the majority of other tasters.

The 2007 Moselland Riesling Kabinett ($8.99) seemed to confirm the expectations of most tasters. Those wary of Riesling, such as Judy and Wendy, found it overly sweet or acrid. But Hu found its dry finish satisfying, Christine detected pleasant hints of apple, and VW thought its slight acidity would go well with seafood.

VW also found the 2008 S.A. Prüm Essence Riesling ($9.99) acidic, and two tasters who failed to write their names down thought it was the sweetest of the bunch — in a bad way. But Hu found it dry and only slightly sweet, and Wendy thought its light, fresh flavor made it perfectly suited to warm-weather drinking.

Phil and I loved the mouthfeel of the 2008 Clean Slate Riesling ($7.99), which danced over the tongue like a good Viognier and was our favorite of the four. VW detected hints of champagne and a subtle fruity flavor, which Juliana pegged as a rich, warm aroma of melon and citrus.

The clear consensus favorite of the batch was the 2007 Blue Fish Sweet Riesling ($7.99), which Juliana thought had a fresh golden color, beautifully complex nose, and nice flavors of grass and honeysuckle. Phil detected hints of citrus, and Hu thought it had an earthy tang. Perhaps most impressively, even sworn Riesling haters Wendy and Judy praised its flavor and said they would drink it again.

I'll be certain to remind them of that the next time we all go out for Southeast Asian food.

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