By Carl Hanson
July 28, 2015

Riesling's crisp, palate-refreshing acidity helps explain its well-earned reputation as an exceptional food wine. Find out what to pair with one of the world's great food wines.

Photo by Meredith

Riesling is frequently bright with acidity and, depending on where it's grown, on the low-alcohol side, with flavors of apple and citrus.

Depending on the age of the wine, Riesling offers a wide range of aromas -- fruit aromas like green apples and limes, peaches and grapefruit, floral aromas like honeysuckle; earthy smells like mineral and slate; as well as some unexpected aromas like diesel fuel and toast.

Despite being so food-friendly, Riesling is often overlooked when we're deciding on a dinner wine. Why all this neglect? Some of it could be the baffling wine labels on German Rieslings: So many long German words, so little sense to make of them. Or it could be that sometimes Rieslings are somewhat sweet, though they can also be quite dry ("dry" simply means "not sweet")-- Rieslings really run the full gamut.

But don't be turned off by a little sweetness. It's a trademark of Riesling that even the sweet versions will offer enough palate-refreshing acidity to keep things balanced, so they're still crisp rather than cloying. If you're not sure if it's dry or sweet, just ask the wine merchant.

Photo by Meredith

Where Riesling Calls Home:

  • Germany: German Rieslings run the full range from dry to super sweet dessert wines. They have very good acidity and are low in alcohol, making them the perfect pairing with spicy foods.
  • Alsace, France: Alsatian Rieslings tend toward the dry (meaning "not sweet") and full-bodied, usually with more alcohol than German styles.
  • Australia: Aussie Rieslings combine bracing acidity with citrus (often lime) flavors and more alcohol than German styles. They can be dry and steely.
  • United States: Washington Rieslings are known for having a toe in both worlds, bringing together the best of Australian and German styles; they offer a touch of sweetness balanced with refreshing acidity and a measure of alcohol typically greater than German styles. There are also delicious Rieslings come out of New York state, particularly the Finger Lakes region.

Recipes to Pair with Riesling

Try Riesling with poultry, pork, and fish -- and there's nothing better with Thai food. Try slightly sweet, lower-alcohol styles with spicy foods.

"A pork loin is marinated with a nice rub flavored with thyme and three chiles," says DADCOOKS. "The dry rub penetrates all the way through and bakes into a sticky, sweet glaze."

Photo by Rock_lobster

"Marinated pork chops are grilled to perfection and topped with a spicy salsa starring pineapple, mango, and applesauce," says EVE11.

Photo by mommyluvs2cook

"My version of this classic Thai dish has spectacular taste even with regular basil instead of Thai or holy basil," says Chef John. "The sauce actually acts like a glaze as the chicken mixture cooks over high heat. The recipe works best if you chop or grind your own chicken and have all ingredients prepped before you start cooking."

Photo by Chef John

"Pork, peppers, and spices are cooked in a Thai peanut sauce until aromatic and tender," says fullerla. "Served over brown or jasmine rice with steamed carrots on the side, this dish makes a satisfying meal."

Photo by Baking Nana

"This is a staple of Thai cooking. Adjust the spices to your own tastes for a really great use for leftover rice!" says ErinInVegas. "I get the basil from a local Asian market. It has a different flavor than that of regular basil and makes all the difference in this recipe. It is fast and fairly easy to make, but requires constant stirring."

Photo by ccasmoe20

"This cheesy scalloped potatoes and ham-layered casserole dish features buttery potatoes and sweet hickory ham baked in a double Jack and Cheddar cheese sauce," says Culinary Envy. "It's a quick and easy recipe that's perfect this time of year as a holiday side dish, or delicious anytime as a cozy meal on a chilly night!"

Photo by Culinary Envy

"Delicious variation on coq au vin, made with an entire bottle of dry Riesling," says Susan Case. "A friend of mine introduced me to this delicious and easy dish."

Photo by Marianne

"This is a French recipe, very easy and a real comfort food," says 4Nancy. An all in one pot meal! I have gotten people who say they don't like sauerkraut to try this dish. They couldn't believe how good it is and asked for more."

Photo by naples34102

Pork, green onions, and green chiles are tossed in hot caramelized sugar until golden brown. The sugar melts into a sweet and savory sauce. "My quick home version of one of my favorite recipes," says cvucvu1. Serve with jasmine rice."

Photo by congpdang

Chef John "I decided to not follow any specific recipe from any particular country or culture, but instead I made a simple composite of every peanut curry I've ever come across. I didn't use coconut milk, as I feel that's a little too sweet and rich for the peanut butter. I loved how this came out, and I can't imagine it being any richer."

Photo by brianne123

Seared sea scallops are served with a papaya sauce featuring red bell pepper, jalapeno, red onion, fresh lime juice, and cilantro. "I loved this recipe for how easy it was to make," says Marissa's Mommy. "I kept the salsa at room temp so it wouldn't cool the scallops too fast. I made some rice cooked in coconut milk.. and voila!! It even looked pretty on the plate. Great choice!"

Photo by naples34102

"Pork tenderloin is cooked on the stovetop and covered with crisp apples in a wine sauce," says CupcakeSparkles11. Would work well with boneless chicken breast or pork chops as well."

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Check out our collection of Riesling Wine Pairing Recipes.