Riesling is arguably the most versatile white wine when it comes to food and wine pairing. Its style can range from bone try, to insanely sweet, which is why it has such a limited audience. Unaware people might have had a style they didn’t like, and then pigeonhole Riesling as either too dry, or too sweet. However, Riesling is gaining new ground and exposure, especially in Ontario, where VQA Rieslings, (like Tawse, Cave Spring Cellars and Trius) are often produced in an off-dry style. Many fine restaurants are serving up these wines, and many wine enthusiasts are pairing these up at banquets and weddings.
Since oak is never used in influencing how Riesling is made, Riesling only has one type of style in how it ranges from dry to sweet. Bone dry Rieslings are bright and refreshing, like freshly squeezed lemonade. As such, use this in dishes where you’d use a squeeze of lemon, such as with oysters, battered or poached fish, lobster, or pork.
Off-Dry Rieslings (In Germany these wines are labelled Kabinett or Spatlese) means that the wines are slightly sweet. Off-Dry Rieslings are magnificent with spicy dishes like Tandoori Chicken or Szechuan Shrimp. Off-Dry Rieslings are also great in mimicking the sweetness in dishes like tamarind salsas, sweeter barbecued sauces or fruit salsa/chutney. Salty foods are great with Off-Dry Rieslings as they are refreshing, and the sweetness in the wine counteracts the salt. Off-Dry Rieslings are fantastic with sweeter vegetables like corn, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips and parsnips. As most Chinese takeout food tends to be salty, yet sweet, off dry Rieslings go fantastic with them, along with their hot and spicy counterparts.
Both Dry and Off-Dry Rieslings have a lot in common, and you’ll find they both pair up with a variety of food. They are great with chicken, duck, goose, turkey, and pretty much any rich and gamy bird. As they pair well with salty foods, they are fantastic with treated meats like ham, sausage, charcuterie and cold cuts. You’ll find they go with sweeter and/or hot spices like cumin, curry, cinnamon, clove, ginger, star anise, and turmeric
You’ll want to keep both the Dry and Off-Dry Rieslings away from red meat. Red meat has a lot of flavour that overpowers Riesling. For similar reasons, it’s also not great with black pepper.
The sweetest of the sweet Rieslings are often called Desert or Late Harvest Rieslings. They are wonderful for pairing with desserts based on tropical fruits like pineapple or mango. They also pair well with peach, nectarine, apple, lemon and lime desserts, such as tarts, pies, compotes, custards and candied fruits. You’ll want to avoid all things chocolate, and coffee flavoured as they’ll crush the subtlety of the wine.