Friday, April 3, 2009

Spectacular Austrian Riesling: Part 2

I talk about it all the time in my classes at the Wine School here in Philadelphia, but it bears repeating right here, too: Riesling is one of the most food-friendly wines around, yet too many people still don’t think of it enough when the time comes to select a wine to bring to the table.

Riesling’s magnificent usefulness with food was driven home yet again at the Wine Media Guild’s Austrian Riesling lunch at New York’s Felidia this past Wednesday. The often bracing acidity, the wonderful minerality, the lively citrus character: Everything about the wines screamed out for the kind of deeply flavorful, springtime-bright dishes that were served that afternoon.

Now, the dishes we enjoy at these monthly lunches are not paired with any specific bottlings. Rather, they are conceived in such a way that they will work well with the overall wine theme of the day. Beyond that, it’s up to those of us in attendance to mix and match and discover which wines pair best with which dishes, which is a heck of an education.

This is a fantastic way to explore pairing theory in general, and to really get to know the specific wines from the tasting even better. The Knoll Riesling Federspiel 2007 (above left), for example, was excellent on its own, all minerality and bright citric acidity. But when sipped alongside the house-smoked salmon pastrami with red watercress and chive sauce, its pepperiness came right to the fore, though this was tempered by the spring-like freshness that the greens brought out in the wine. The Riesling's acid, too, was subdued a bit by the oil in the fish, making it impossible to stop eating the salmon or drinking the wine. Dangerously delicious, indeed.

I also loved the spring quinoa “risotto” with spring vegetables and spinach puree (right) with the Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Hochrain 2006. Sipped without food, the wine showed beautiful peach and apricot character and a bass-note of something almost woody and mushroomy. With the quinoa, a sense of earthiness came to define the combination, and cast both the wine and the food in a completely different and unexpected light.

That’s one of the main virtues of tasting like this, and of experimenting with combinations that you might not have had or even thought of before: Discoveries abound, and excitement becomes the defining characteristic of the meal.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the suggestion Brian- I love Rieslings and wrote Knoll Federspiel 2007 down on my "to get" list!!
Joan Seeger

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