German Riesling is beloved in the wine world and one of the fastest-growing varieties on the market, and for a good reason. Its aromatic, fruity properties and light to medium-bodied make it delicious with a variety of foods. However, the wide flavor diversity among Rieslings can make it tricky to pair with food for beginners.
Germany produces some of the finest Rieslings, and most come from the Rhine region in the southwest. In fact, 23% of the country’s total wine produced is Riesling! It can be both dry and sweet, but it is always fruity and fresh. Not many wines pair well with spicy or strong flavors, but Riesling is one of the few up to the task, making it stand out in the crowd. Choosing the right Riesling brings your food to another level, and can markedly elevate the flavors.
If you are confused about what food should accompany your favorite Riesling, you are not alone! Read on for your guide to pairing foods with German Riesling.
1. Check the sweetness level of your Riesling
The first thing to determine is if your Riesling is dry (low in sugar) or sweet. There are three methods of determining this:
a) Residual sugar
Look for the residual sugar on the label (grape sugars that remain in the wine after fermentation).
- Very Dry – <1g/L
- Dry – 1-17g/L
- Off-Dry – 17-35g/L
- Medium-Sweet – 35-120g/L
- Sweet – >120g/L
b) Volume of alcohol
Another indication of sweetness is the volume of alcohol. The lower the alcohol percentage, the sweeter the wine. Check the percentage on the label using this guide:
- 8-9% abv – sweet
- 10% abv – medium sweetness
- 11-12.5% abv – off-dry, some remaining sugar
- 12.5 or higher abv – very dry, no noticeable sweetness
c) German labeling
You can also check for “Qualitätswein” on the label of a German Riesling. It may indicate the sweetness through this naming convention:
- Trocken/Selection – dry wine
- Halbtrocken/Classic – mildly sweet wine
- Feinherb – off-dry wine
- Liebliche – sweet wine
- Süss – very sweet wine
On the other hand, the label may indicate “Pradikatswein,” a sweet wine from the Mosel region. Pradikatswein wines will indicate the sweetness level through these terms:
- Kabinett – dry to off-dry
- Spätlese – dry
- Auslese – sweet
- Beerenauslese – sweet
- Trockenbeerenauslese – dry
- Eiswein – sweet
This may sound complicated, but don’t be intimidated- a quick look at the label will tell you everything you need to know about the wine’s properties.
2) Choose the right sweetness level to pair with food
Matching the sweetness of your Riesling to your food is key to the perfect pairing. You can’t go wrong with these combinations:
- This pairs wonderfully with desserts, particularly tangy sweets. Caramel, lemon tarts, lemon meringue pie, peaches and cream, apple pie, and citrus- or fruit-based desserts are delicious with sweet Riesling.
- Prefer savory foods? Some sweet Rieslings also pair nicely with a blue cheese such as Roquefort and Stilton.
- These sweet and acidic wines are delicious with strong cheeses, including Taleggio, Raclette, Livarot, Munster, and Morbier.
- Unlike red wine, white wine doesn’t have tannins, which makes it great with spicy food. Off-dry Rieslings are great with fatty and flavorful fish dishes such as seafood curry, oysters in sauce, or grilled cod.
- Pork, smoked meats, and sandwiches are lovely with off-dry Rieslings.
- Vegetarian curries are also a great match, along with light citrus-based desserts.
- The balance of acid and sugar makes off-dry Rieslings an excellent accompaniment to Mexican, Indian, and Asian food.
- Not unlike Sauvignon Blanc, dry Rieslings pair well with light cheeses like feta.
- It also goes beautifully with light fish and seafood, particularly those cooked with fresh lemon.
- Salads, cooked vegetable dishes, and pasta dishes are also good pairings, along with sushi and garlic.
- Because of its light, bright flavor, dry Rieslings are delicious with spicy canapés and other snacks.
- Eiswein is made from frozen grapes, and it’s quite unlike any other traditional wine. It is a very sweet wine that can be served as a dessert on its own. Pairing it with any desserts or a square of dark chocolate is a delicious combination.
Like all white wines, Riesling tastes best when cold, so you ensure you chill it before serving.
Riesling’s ability to pair with strong and spicy flavors makes it in demand with foodies and restaurants. The bright acidity, floral notes, and fruity flavors of Riesling will excite your tastebuds and brighten your palate, while the intense aromatics heightens the experience even more.
Ultimately, you cannot go wrong with a Riesling. Even if the food pairing isn’t ideal, this wine is so smooth that it will be delicious with any food you choose. The extraordinary diversity between Riesling types makes it a favorite of sommeliers and wine lovers worldwide. With so much variety to choose from, you will never run out of food and Riesling combinations to explore.