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Finger Lakes Wine Primer: Riesling

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Shorter growing seasons may not be favorable in other parts of the world, but that limitation has proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Finger Lakes. It has determined our legacy. Certain grapes prefer a cooler climate, resulting in wines of higher acidity that are now being celebrated for their prowess at the dinner table. In this post we’re taking a look at the varietal for which our region is most known: Riesling.

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Finger Lakes Wine Primer: Riesling

Our knight in shining armor, Riesling has become the favorite of winemakers here, not to mention a hands-down winner for consumers everywhere. It has this amazing ability to appear in styles from bone-dry to dessert sweet, and can please palates of every preference. Originating in Germany, the Riesling vine itself is quite accustomed to ripening in cooler climates, and actually does not take well to hotter regions of the world. That gives us at least one reason to celebrate the cold!

This white wine grape currently occupies the most vineyard real estate of all the Vinifera varieties in the Finger Lakes. According to current figures, we have about 850 acres planted to Riesling. In years where the weather is coolest, Ries- ling can display crisp flavors of apple and pear. In warmer years, when we have nice sunny summers, Riesling can develop almost tropical notes that remind of pineapple and mango. No matter what Mother Nature doles out in any particular vintage, the Riesling grape just seems to have an innate talent to ripen. And our winemakers have the magical ability to coax it to its best levels.

With the new Riesling scale appearing on the back label of bottles, it is easier than ever to find a style tailored just to you. Dry styles make excellent aperitifs and partner extremely well with seafood and poultry dishes; semi-dry styles are sublime with spicy cuisine, salty foods and smoky barbecue recipes; and the ice wines are some of the most luscious dessert nectars made on the planet. The versatile Riesling is a wine for all seasons, pairing as equally well with picnic foods as it does with holiday turkey dinner. –Holly Howell

The above is excerpted from a larger piece in our 2013 Wine issue.

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