By Damian Hartner, Contributing Writer

There are hosts of generally offensive things that you can say about someone. You can tell them that you could smell them coming from down the hall or that they look robust or that they are too dark (or light) to be paired with your other dinner guests. Speaking of dinner, there are a bunch of generally offensive things you could say about someone’s cooking. You can tell them that it tastes like earth or wood or tobacco. You could tell them that it is dry. Or you could say that the first thing that hit you was the pungent smell.

But, in the great world of wine, all of these things could be and often are taken as a complement. Pop the cork on a 15 year-old Bordeaux and the whole room fills with the smell of the wine. Pour it into the decanter and it looks robust. Serve it with fish and it is way too dark for your table. Just for the record, it requires a nice butter finished porter house steak. And, of course, the Bordeaux will taste earthy, oaky, have a hint of tobacco, and be a dry wine. I dare say that a bottle fitting that description would earn a solid 90+ from Robert Parker, if the man rated anything other than Zinfandel these days. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Interestingly, this past week, July 26 – August 1 was “Riesling Week”. Riesling rounds out the top 3 white grapes grown in the world. The other two are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The grape is much more versatile than either Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. The Riesling wines range from Dry (trocken) to sweet (Kabinett) and there are some excellent sparkling Rieslings around as well. Riesling can be grown in many places as the grape is pretty hearty, but the German Rhine Region and the French Alsace Regions are the places that make the best. Riesling is terrior-expressive meaning that it takes on many of the characteristics of the soil in which it is grown. So, a California Riesling is very different from the European varieties. Most Riesling is finished in stainless steel – and so “oaky” is not usually going to happen – I don’t think I’ve ever tasted an oaked Riesling.

So, go out and grab a nice bottle of Riesling. I suggest a trocken Riesling from the Rhine Region in Germany. Then, grill up some fish and summer vegetables, crack open that bottle and enjoy. Maybe get one of the sweeter bottles for dessert. Hmmm, maybe you should just pick up two of each bottle… just in case.

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