Still, sparkling, dry, and sweet — Riesling is a wine of many faces. A grape that thrives in cool climates, Riesling is most often associated with Germany, particularly the mountainous river region of Mosel, where the lower temperatures and lower direct sunlight help the grapes ripen slower and maintain natural acidity and freshness. The resulting wines can often be cellared for many years, thanks to Riesling’s balance of sugar and acidity — though many people prefer not to wait, and pour a glass straight away.
Riesling is also found in other parts of Germany, as well as in Austria, Alsace, and the Clare Valley in Australia, among other regions. Closer to home, it also does particularly well in the Finger Lakes region.
It’s equally versatile when it comes to price points, meaning you don’t have to pay top dollar to find a dynamic and complex bottle. Here are a few that experts turn to when they’re in the mood for Riesling but aren’t looking to pay more than $25 for a bottle.
7 Rieslings to try:
One of the most recognizable brands of Rieslings is produced by the Loosen family, who have grown and produced wine in the Mosel valley for more than 200 years. An easy bottle to spot at the grocery store, it’s a wine bursting with juicy fruit flavors and crisp minerality. “Riesling is one of those grapes that you can more easily nab a good quality bottle at the grocery store, and this is a solid bottle,” says Kendeigh Worden, a sommelier and wine educator who runs The Grape Grind. “This one has delicious peachy fruit and just a touch of powdered sugar sweetness, but a mouthwatering acid structure,” she adds.
The Germans are some of the world’s most passionate lovers of sparkling wine, so of course they have a tradition of sparkling Riesling. Sekt — the German word for sparkling wine — showcases the beauty of the grape. Jermaine Stone, the creator and host of the “Wine and Hip Hop” podcast recommends trying a bottle of this wine from German winemaker Markus Molitor. “This is a dry wine made from Riesling with aromatic notes of peach, grapefruit, and ripe pear balanced perfectly by the mineral refreshing acidity. It’s the perfect first sip on your Riesling journey and a great party wine. It goes with everything, and no one is disappointed if you pull up with a bottle,” Stone says, adding, “Who doesn’t love bubbles?”
The Sparr family’s winery dates back to the late 1600s in Alsace, a French winemaking region that shares a border with Germany’s Rheinland-Pfalz, and which is known for producing dry Riesling. “This wine is extremely bright and fun to drink,” says Worden. “It’s easy to find and a great example of Riesling’s ripe citrus fruits, great minerality, and subtle white floral notes.”
Looking for a dry wine with angularity? Turn to this offering produced by biodynamic grower Sven Leiner in the village of Ilbesheim, located in the southern Rheinland-Pfalz, a prominent winemaking region in Germany. What’s even better is that all the wine’s delicious flavors come packed in a liter-sized bottle, making this wine a great one for sharing with friends, according to Valerie Kathawala, who teaches a course on German wine for Wine Scholar Guild. “It’s a liter of cool, reverberant refreshment that screams crowd pleaser but is also a welcome tonic on a school night once you’ve gotten the kids to sleep,” Kathawala says.
Another juicy fruit Riesling option recommended by Worden comes from Eroica, a Riesling-focused label and partnership between Dr. Loosen and Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of Washington state’s oldest wineries. “The fruit is more like ripe apricots and key lime, and the wine is a bit more full and luscious in the body,” says Worden. With notes of bright fruit, the wine is balanced with a twinge of crisp minerality. It’s also one, Worden says, to spot at grocery chains across the U.S. “This is an easy-to-find version of what a Riesling can be,” she notes.
It’s all about fresh mineral Riesling at Empire Estate, produced in the Finger Lakes region of New York by sommelier-turned-winemaker Thomas Pastuszak. The silvery gold-colored wine is a bomb of fruit with nuances of apple and peach that’s tempered with a spritz of lemon. “Some of the best Rieslings are produced right here in the U.S., and this is another dry version that’s all about mineral, steely character, backed up by white flowers and citrus. It also has an amazing texture, giving it a great rich but mineral finish that people don’t necessarily expect,” says Stone.
Made in Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains AVA, this Riesling produced by husband-and-wife team Ross and Bee Maloof, is booming with acidity, aromatics, and sweetness. It’s one of Kathawala’s favorite wines. “I seek out wines from small growers who farm responsibly in interesting places,” she says. This bottle of Riesling always wins her over with its “cracking energy, tension, clarity, and nerve, and its fearless rejoicing in the life-affirming qualities of judicious residual sugar.”