Robust, complex and misunderstood

The Riesling grape was born in Germany, and, like the Christmas tree and Easter Bunny—both German originals—it's an unexpected surprise. Riesling is one of the 18 Noble Grapes, siring a variety of extraordinary white wines, mostly sweet German wines. (Riesling grapes are also grown in Austria, France and Washington state, but for the most part, when you think Riesling, you can think Germany.)

Like a teenager, the Riesling grape is often misunderstood; while often sweet, it also can be very dry and complex. Rieslings have an alluring floral aroma that may put you in mind of the high alpen meadows of the Sound of Music (If you're over 40. If you're under 40, well, you should see that movie. It's a classic.)

The most prominent notes in a Riesling generally run to sweet, round fruits aromas of peach, honey, nectar, pear, pineapple, lime and apricot. The fruity taste finds its way into the nose as well as the palate, combining sweetly with those floral scents.

There's plenty of versatility in Riesling, with sub-varieties including Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese (go ahead, pronounce it. We dare you.) Or try sweet American Riesling from Washington state.

A great stand-alone, Riesling is rarely blended with other grapes. The robust wines make perfect pairings with spicy foods like Indian and Asian dishes and entrees loaded with highly spiced and aromatic herbs like cayenne pepper, ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, tumeric, sichuan pepper, soy sauce, rice vinegar and teriyak. A hot and herbal dish? Bring out the Riesling.

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