As a lover of dry rieslings, I admit I am somewhat intolerant of those who don’t understand my passion for or the beauty of these fascinating wines.
As with many such passions for certain wines, they are hard to describe to people who have never been exposed to their charms.
So when I read the other day that the 2014 Tierce has been released with a price tag of “only” $30 (the same price it was last year), I immediately realized that some people would think of it as being overpriced.
Like anything else in this world that entails personal preference, dry riesling is an acquired taste, and those who get it easily understand what a bargain this wine represents.
Just as a cabernet sauvignon lover would tell you that $75 is a bargain for a well-made bottle from Oakville or the Stag’s Leap District, so is $30 bargain for a great riesling.
Since dry riesling can’t be compared with anything else, because it is always so different from most other white wines out there, the price relates only to other dry rieslings.
And the fact that Tierce, a bone-dry riesling, is a project of three New York state wineries (Fox Run, Red Newt, Anthony Road), is made in tiny quantities each year, and the fact that it is available only in New York or via the Internet, sort of makes this discussion a little arcane.
Yet great dry rieslings also exist in California, including three wonderful wines from Napa Valley (Stony Hill, Smith Madrone, Trefethen), a number of superb examples from Mendocino County (including Navarro and Handley) and a sensational wine from Pey-Marin.
And there are at least a dozen fabulous dry rieslings available to buyers nationally out of Washington state.
Only one of these wines (Stony Hill) sells for as much as $30. Most are $12 to $22.
Sales of dry riesling are slowly increasing around the country, and prices remain stable in spite of the fact that there is so little of this grape variety planted.
One reason sales haven’t jumped rapidly is that to some newcomers, riesling is usually sweet.
A key reason for the increase in sales of drier rieslings is how handsomely it works with Thai food, combined with the rapidly increasing number of Thai food restaurants nationally.
There may be no better match for Thai food than a dry riesling.
Related to the $30 price for Tierce, it was a joy last week for us to dine on sublime Thai food and pair it with a simply magnificent dry riesling that has a suggested retail price of three times the price for Tierce!
The 2014 Shäfer Frohlich Fruhlingsplätzchen Grosses Gewachs Riesling from Germany’s Nahe ($93) was overwhelmingly delicious, with virtually no residual sugar.
Germany, the heartland for riesling, has many such fabulous dry rieslings, which is one of the themes of the new book, “The Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story,” by Brit Stuart Pigott (Stuart, Tabori & Chang, $16.95).
The above German wine was imported by longtime German wine importer Rudi Wiest of Cellars International in Carlsbad, whose portfolio is one of the best for wines of this style. He now imports more dry rieslings than ever.
And the greater demand for them is increasing their prices.
A final point about why German rieslings don’t sell as fast as their quality indicates they should:
Can you pronounce Shäfer Frohlich Fruhlingsplätzchen Grosses Gewachs?
Wines of the Week: 2015 Jekel Riesling, Monterey County ($15)—The gorgeous aroma of tropical fruit and pears also has a trace of the famed “petrol,” or TDN, which defines riesling for many people. There is a faint trace of residual sugar here, but the aftertaste is relatively dry so the wine works well with highly seasoned foods, such as Indian curries. This wine is almost always seen significantly discounted, usually to about $11.50.
2015 St. Hallett Riesling, Eden Valley ($15)—This terrific Australian riesling offers an aroma of lime with a minerally/flinty distinctiveness. It is drier than the Jekel, though either would be sensational with Thai dishes. Occasionally discounted to about $12.50.