Riesling too often gets a bad rap. Originating in the Rhine region of Germany, riesling is one of the great white wine varieties but is frequently dismissed as a "sweet" wine. Yes, it's responsible for some of the world's finest dessert wines, but it can also be bone dry. Even when it does have a little residual sugar, when grown in the right terroir, riesling also has the big, balancing acidity to match, resulting in a wine that tastes much less sweet than you might imagine. Here are the panel's top picks:
2010 St. Urbans-Hof Riesling, $13.99
This is an amazingly aromatic wine--a well-integrated blend of honeycomb, herb, succulent apple and gooseberry, along with a characteristic hit of diesel that works better than it sounds. On the palate, this wine is superbly balanced, round and rich with peaches, papaya and kiwi fruit turning light and lively on the persistent finish. This riesling is a definite winner from the Mosel region of Germany.
2009 Schmitges Riesling Qualitatswein, $16.99
Another entry from Mosel, this wine opens with an intriguing array of aromas that include enticingly sweet and sour citrus (something like a lemon Jolly Rancher), baked apple, herb and spice. This is a nicely balanced wine, in which ripe apricot and pear play against lemon and lime with their bright acidity. The refreshing finish has a definite creaminess that caresses and lingers beautifully.
2010 Trust Riesling, $15.99
If there's a place well beyond the borders of Germany where Riesling flourishes, it's the Northwest--warm days and cool nights translate to ripe fruit and racy acidity. The aromas in this Walla Walla, Wash., wine are a mix of green apple and peach, colored by orange blossom and herb. Creamy stone fruit flavors lead off on the palate, matched by crisp citrus. A nice minerality and orange zest comes through on the green apple finish.