Der Riesling Manifesto

June 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

A couple of years ago I wrote an info screed entitled Der Riesling Manifesto, and posted it in the store where I work. Since then, a number of people have asked for copies. To celebrate the start of Summer of Riesling 2011, I’m now posting the full Manifesto below. In the spirit of Karl Marx, I hope it goes viral!

All summer long, I’ll be writing about Riesling in my Portland Press Herald wine column and elsewhere. YOU ARE POWERLESS TO RESIST.

Also, here are a few other Riesling-based Manifestos available in that there World Wide Web:

Anyway, on to my very own…

Der Riesling Manifesto

(You have nothing to lose but your culinary chains!)

Hey you, don’t pass by the Rieslings! You say you don’t like “sweetness” in your wines. But we don’t quite believe you. Here’s why…

First of all, some Rieslings are bone-dry, with far less sweet in them than many Malbecs, Pinot Noirs and Shirazes. These dry Rieslings match perfectly with all sorts of right-now foods: vinegar-y salads; briny seafood such as shrimp, scallops and bivalves; simple white fish; grilled meats of all sorts; pasta with cream sauces; enchiladas.

On sweetness and food

Non-dry Riesling has a perfect sweetness in it, along with stunningly refreshing acidity. It’s that acidity that transforms these wines into fantastic food partners, rather than cloying, sugary messes. Accompanied by this acidity, a little bit of sweetness in wines is terrific with

  • spicy foods (the combination of low alcohol and some residual sugar does an end-run around the heat, so you can actually taste your food and wine at the same time)
  • strong cheeses (blues, Beemster, smoked cheeses and more)
  • the majority of foods we all eat a lot of the time, which contain a good deal of sweetness in them, like

Veggies, etc.

  • caramelized onions, shallots
  • winter squash
  • sautéed red cabbage with currants and balsamic vinegar
  • grilled or roasted veggies like peppers, zucchini, summer squash, fennel
  • roasted tomatoes
  • carrots, beets and other root vegetables in any form
  • corn, either on the cob or in cornbread, polenta, spoonbread, tamales, tortillas
  • mango salsa, and other semi-exotic fusion-y flavor combos

Animals, etc.

  • bacon! ham! sausage!
  • veal and pork chops, if not aggressively herbed/garlicked
  • chicken wings, with all manner of sauces
  • grilled salmon, char
  • trout (a perfectly sweet fish, especially when stuffed with sautéed leeks and roasted!)
  • eggs — poached on toast or another grain, scrambled, omelets
  • foie gras
  • lamb, believe it or not


  • American” hors d’oeuvres often crying for a subtly sweet, acidic punch, such as dips and spreads, pigs-in-blankets, canapés, etc.
  • honey mustard sauce, teriyaki, barbecue sauce
  • most other glazes for fish or meat
  • coconut milk (and remember that when it’s spicy, as in much Southeast Asian cuisine, Riesling is doubly relevant)

Any of that sound like parts of a good meal? Yeah, I thought so.

Wine for LIFE, not for GETTING BLASTED!

On its own, sipped late at night with friends, on the patio while you’re stoking the grill, or in the kitchen while you chop veggies, Riesling makes you happy to be alive. Any good wine does that, but Riesling’s advantage in such situations is its low alcohol level: there are plenty of times when you don’t want to be overwhelmed by the besotting qualities of wine; you just want to taste something delicious while remaining cogent and upright as the evening wears on. (And get a nice, manageable buzz with less downside!)

Wine for FOOD

Low alcohol is also the Ginger Rogers to food’s Fred Astaire: it accompanies the food rather than competes with it — and like Ginger to Fred, it does everything the food does but backwards and in high heels!

Wine for HARMONY

Most foods have sweetness in them — the type of sweetness that is either obliterated by Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Tempranillo (especially in oaked Rioja), Chianti, and Shiraz, or contradicted by Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. For foods with a strong olive-oil-and-garlic orientation, enjoy one of those French, Italian or Spanish varietals (though even in those situations a dry Riesling might be better). But for the majority of your meals and the actual contours of your life, try a Riesling (or Scheurebe or Silvaner, but that’s a different manifesto…) and see what happens.


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