Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brilliant Idea

Ever bought a bottle of Riesling and been surprised that the wine is sweeter than you expected? Or not as sweet? Me too. I can’t think of another varietal that winemakers produce in so many different styles. Some regions, like Germany, have their own classification systems to guide the consumer (although knowledge of German helps). Still, much confusion and disappointment reigns.

Back in 2008, the International Riesling Foundation (yeah, I didn’t know it existed either) launched the “Riesling Taste Profile”. The IRF designed the Tasting Profile to help consumers anticipate the taste of a particular bottle of Riesling. The Riesling Taste Profile consists of “voluntary technical guidelines for wine makers and winery owners in describing their wines for consumers and that may be used on a back label, point-of-sale materials, and elsewhere”. The technical guidelines have benchmarks for residual sugar, acid, and pH. All three elements affect the taste profile of Riesling, which is why relying on only one element, such as the LCBO’s sugar content ratings, can lead you astray. For example, a Riesling with more residual sugar but high acid may well taste drier than one with less sugar and low acid. Measurements for these three elements determine how a winemaker classifies its Riesling on a continuum from Dry to Medium Dry to Medium Sweet to Sweet. Despite the benchmarks, however, a winemaker may still use judgement in how the label describes the wine.

The IRF has members in North America (including Cave Spring Cellars), Europe, South Africa, and Australia. Decanter reports that 12 million cases of US-produced Rieslings now use the Taste Profile.

It’s not perfect, but anything that reduces consumer misperceptions and confusion has my support. Let’s hope more Riesling producers get on board.

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