Nielsen data showed Riesling sales
growing 72% from 2003 to 2006, outpac-
ing every other major variety aside from
Pinot Grigio, and since then the grape has
continued to maintain a similar trajectory.
According to Euromonitor, international
growth in Riesling sales had been a steady
3.3% annually from 1997 to 2005, but
then jumped to 10.5% annually for the
2005-2010 period.
Across the U.S., Riesling seems to
evoke two associations in wine drinkers:
Germany, and sweetness. The former has
been more surmountable than the latter;
consumers are embracing Rieslings from
not just Germany but from New York,
Austria, Washington and other regions
as well. However, “People still have a
tendency to conflate Riesling with sweet-
ness,” says Terry Theise, who imports a
number of Rieslings from Germany and
Austria such as Christoffel and Alzinger.
“We need to convey that Riesling is just
a grape variety made in a wide range of
styles. To figure out which is which takes
six to ten minutes of people’s time, but peo-
ple treat it like it’s something Talmudic.”
When Grieco does a Riesling tasting,
he forbids use of what he calls, “the ‘S’
word,” leaving it out the conversation
to put the focus on balance instead. He
also points out that 95% of the world’s
Riesling is in fact dry, including 60% of
Germany’s. Most of that was tradition-
ally consumed domestically, but that’s
changing as well. Chaylee Priete, wine
director at The Slanted Door in San
Francisco, says, “The range of styles has
broadened considerably and I think the
winemaking practices are improving so
that wines seem complete, not stripped
of sweetness which I had thought was a
problem for some time. I do not think
so any more. There are more balanced
wines being offered.”
Photos courtesy of New York Wine and Grape Foundation / Terry Theise Photo by Anna Stöcher
Rise
of
Riesling
Though Still Battling Consumer Perceptions,
this Noble Grape has Carved Out a Solid Niche
By Jim Clarke
‘‘
T
he drinking of Riesling makes you a better person,” says Paul
Grieco of the restaurant Hearth and the Terroir wine bars in
New York City, founder of the Summer of Riesling and self-
styled “Riesling Overlord.” If he’s right, the moral well-being of the U.S.
has risen considerably over the past decade.
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