Try a Riesling
Consumption of Riesling is growing faster than any other white varietal in the U.S. for several good reasons. Foremost, it is still a relatively undiscovered wine, which means the costs haven't skyrocketed like Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Second, it's generally lower in alcohol, and that means that a person can drink more with less effect, and with fewer calories. Third, its vibrant acidity is unsurpassed in the wine world, making it the perfect palate-cleansing food wine. Finally, for people who enjoy full, rich flavors, Riesling is exceeded only by Alsace's Pinot Gris and White Hermitage.
Riesling has one big problem. Because it's so fruity, people always think the wine is sweet, even when it has no sugar whatsoever. But Riesling lovers like their wines in a rainbow of sweetness, from bone dry to honey rich. Pity the poor consumer. How will we know what we're getting?
All of the following Rieslings are dry, i.e., have less than 1% residual sugar. The budget best buy is McWilliam's Hanwood Estate Riesling ($9), an Australian wine with lovely, crisp acidity and an apple-and-citrus aroma. The Aussies keep most of their Rieslings for themselves, so this is a great opportunity to try their version. Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling ($12) from Washington state costs a bit more, but the acidity is even more delightful. This is a perfect wine for Indian or Southeast Asian food.
From Germany, Gunderloch's Jean-Baptiste Riesling Kabinett ($21) is the perfect wine for people who prefer wines with more subtlety and complexity. Apricot and apple aromas and a flinty finish are good indicators of what makes many Riesling lovers pick Germany as the best place on earth for the grape. I would counter with its neighbor in France, Alsace, where Domaine Trimbach makes what some consider to be the best single white wine of all, Clos Ste. Hune Riesling. That wine is rare and very expensive, but there's also a Trimbach Riesling ($18), which gives a hint of the heights of the family's Riesling art.
McWilliam's is available at Grape Vine Market and many H-E-B stores. The Chateau Ste. Michelle is at the Twin Liquors on Parmer and 1431, as well as at the Twin Liquors Marketplace in Hancock Center. You can find Gunderloch at Grape Vine Market, Whole Foods, Central Market, and some Twin Liquors. The Trimbach is available at the Austin Wine Merchant, Grape Vine Market, Whole Foods, Central Market, and Spec's.
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