What began six years ago as a singular attempt to gain recognition for Riesling wine has grown into a national celebration. During the summer of 2008, Paul Grieco, manager at New York’s famous Terroir E.Vil Wine Bar, decided to change customers’ minds about Riesling wine, one glass at a time.
According to Grieco, it was “to dispel this hackneyed belief that Riesling is always sweet!” The promotion lasted 94 days during which time customers were served 30 different Riesling wines by the glass and 100 different bottled Rieslings. It was a huge success.
By 2011, the International Riesling Foundation, an organization dedicated to the worldwide promotion of the noble grape, had joined forces with Terroir E.Vil Wine Bar, and turned what had been a New York City event into a national celebration.
Fast-forward three years to the “Summer of Riesling” (SoR) 2014, celebrated this year from June 21 to Sept. 21. Hundreds of restaurants, wine shops, and wine bars across the country are taking part by featuring Riesling wines every day during the summer.
The month of July has a special place of honor in the Riesling celebration. Since Germany is the homeland of the Riesling grape, the “31 Days of Riesling” was launched to focus attention on the German-made wines. For years, German Rieslings were crafted sweet, but today two-thirds of the Riesling wines produced in Germany are crafted in the trocken (dry) style.
In fact, Riesling has undergone a worldwide makeover and is now sporting a drier body, better balance, deeper complexity, and a flirty, light, crisp finish. How refreshing! And Riesling is the one summer white wine that is extremely food-friendly, pairing well with grilled meats, fresh seafood, and an array of garden veggies.
Although nothing has been scheduled locally, you still can celebrate the Summer of Riesling. Plan a SoR party and serve different styles of Riesling wines. Put some bass, salmon, or pork chops on the grill and pop open a full-bodied Riesling with mineral notes: Try Jacob’s Creek Riesling from Australia.
A fresh garden salad topped with chicken or shrimp would be perfect for a citrusy Riesling like Chateau Ste. Michelle from the Columbia Valley in Washington. Keep dessert simple with a fresh berry torte and Beringer’s Johannesburg Riesling for a sweet finish. Riesling wines also pair well with game meats, crab cakes, oysters, curries, and spicy foods. It’s about the most “perfect” wine for summer, hands down.
But, alas, all good things must come to an end and so it is with SoR. According to Grieco, this will be the final summer for the national event. But don’t despair, it still promises to be a stellar year for the noble grape and the Summer of Riesling celebration; and who knows, you may find yourself carrying this new wine love affair on into autumn, perhaps with a luscious Riesling ice wine.