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By The Glass


Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Riesling wines work well
with a wide range of foods

The noble varietal riesling is a contender with chardonnay as the best white-wine grape, although it has been exploited for years by mass producers of "run-of-the mill" rieslings, or wines masquerading as such.

Wine snobs reflexively associate rieslings with cloying sweetness, and/or vapidity. Personally, I love rieslings because of their ability to complement a wide range of foods. Here are some good reasons to love rieslings:

>> Because it's an upgrade to white zinfandel. If you like sweet wine, rieslings provide a great alternative to just sweet, syrupy wines. Gunderloch "Rhein River Selection" Riesling, 1999 ($15) offers a fruity style, with magnificent concentration, depth and complexity, great acidity and balance, with delicate sweetness.

>> Because rieslings can be made in a medium-dry (halbtroken) style, good for serving with rich, exotic seafood such as sea urchin or salmon roe. Kunstler Riesling Halbtrocken Riesling, 2001 ($20) has exotic fruit such as mangos and lychee, with a touch of sweetness.

>> Because it can be made in a dry style to pair with foods such as roast pork, grilled wursts or seafood. Zind-Humbrecht "Clos Windsbuhl" Riesling, 2001 ($35) has intense, exotic fruit and citrus aromas and flavors, but ample body -- dry and stony.

>> Because rieslings can be made sweet to go with spicy Asian fusion foods. Try Zilliken Estate Riesling, 2000, ($18) with spicy Chicken Panang Curry, a seafood hot-and-sour soup.

>> Because rieslings can be made in a dessert style (auslese), a perfect match with foie gras!

>> Because it can be a perfect match with sushi! Randall Graham of Bonny Doon created the perfect sushi wine his dry Pacific Rim Riesling, 2001 ($15). This wine is packed with plenty of lemon-lime flavors and unctuous textures, with great elegance.

>> Because rieslings age beautifully. Believe it or not, rieslings have lots more fruit and acidity than grape varieties such as chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, which give this wine the ability to age.

>> Because it offers great bang for your buck. Great riesling producers such as Zilliken, Kunstler and Gunderloch, to name a few, offer great value with great quality.

Next time you decide to enjoy a glass of white wine, try a riesling, you'll find more to this wine than simple sweetness!

Ivy Nagayama is corporate manager for Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar.

This column is a weekly lesson in wine
pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
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