If you still associate riesling with that sticky-sweet bottle of Blue Nun that you drank in college, Jamie Patten says it's time to step up your game.
"It's a wine that's a bit misunderstood," says Patten, owner of Lawrenceville's Allegheny Wine Mixer. "It comes in all different styles."
To help foster better understanding of the often-maligned varietal, the AWM is participating in the "Summer of Riesling," a celebration that lasts from June 21 to Sept. 21. This is the seventh summer for the international festival, which began at Terroir in New York City in 2008. Patten says that AWM will have at least four rieslings by the glass all summer long, including some rare permutations like a sparkling riesling. She's happy to make recommendations for those who still think riesling isn't too dissimilar to sweet wines like Boone's Farm, the wine many of us drank before we could legally buy wine.
Riesling is made from a highly aromatic green grape of the same name. It's believed the grape originated in Germany, where many of the best rieslings are produced, and is considered one of the primary white-wine grapes. Outside of Germany, high-quality rieslings are produced in Alsace (France), Austria, Finger Lakes (New York), Washington state, Canada and New Zealand.
Although some versions of riesling are dry, sweetness is a defining characteristic of the grape. However, sweetness need not be demonized as saccharine liquid courage for the "I Don't Like to Drink So I'm Drinking Sweet Wine" set.
"There was so much bad sweet wine in the U.S. for so long that people started to associate 'sweet' and 'bad,'" Patten says.
Sweet is indeed bad when it's unbalanced. A fine riesling, however, is balanced because of the grape's high acidity. And that unique mix of sweetness and acidity, according to Patten, is a recipe for a refreshing summer wine you don't have to be embarrassed to drink.
"I love riesling," she says. "I always have."