News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Jul 30, 2008 1:55 pm

Tim York wrote:
Why not for QmP wines, David? We already have Kabinett, Spätlese and possibly Auslese trocken. And the classification might help to identify an auslese masquerading as Kabinett.


Because it won't. Kabinett is about lightness of touch, not sweetness. I've had plenty of heavy and nearly dry tasting wines labeled as kabinett. THey would have gotten an "off-dry" I am sure.

Tim York wrote:Like you, I have reservations about an automated system using a technical chart. I would prefer a tasting committee, spot checks by a tasting committee or even a subjective assessment by the grower (not forgetting that that I had two surprisingly sweet "sec" Pinots Gris during the WF month). However an automated system using imperfect words is better than no system.


A bad system is worse than no system in my opinion. It builds false confidence that, once dashed, can never be rebuilt.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Thomas » Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:46 pm

David Creighton wrote:i must be missing something. for one i don't see how 'endless conversation' means people are confused. semi-dry may have blurry edges; but at a minimum we know the wine is not completely dry but also not really sweet. we know SOMETHING! to suggest that because it is confusing we should be given NO info and know NOTHING seems be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. is this just because it is riesling? .


David,

To be clear: I am not referring to Riesling only, and I didn't say we should not give information. To support what I just posted, the following is my original post, underline added:

"With regard to those dry, semi-dry, etc. labels. I wasn't kidding earlier. My un-mainstream belief is that they shouldn't even be used to identify wine. There has to be a better way than to purposely confuse people with words, and since the conversation over them is endless, they obviously are confusing people."

In other words, I don't think the words dry, etc., are very good at defining wine. And the endless conversations I refer to are the ones I've been hearing and having about this dry/sweet stuff for the past 25 years.

I did say my thinking is not mainstream, but don't you believe that there has to be a better way?
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Jim Brennan » Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:28 pm

David Creighton wrote: doesn't the system in vouvray work fairly well - sec, sec-tendre, demi-sec, moelleux. that is exactly the same group of catefories as is being proposed for riesling. i've never seen complaints about the voluntary labeling protocols for vouvray.


The various tangents about popularity (or lack thereof) regarding Vouvray aside, I will say that buying Vouvrays that are not labeled to offer some idea of relative sweetness is confusing indeed. Chidaine and Belliviere (Joly) are examples where it's impossible to know this information without either: a) the retailer knowing; or b) reading a review that provides this information. And before anyone argues that a retailer who sells these should know where they fall in terms of sweetness, is that it's entirely possible that only some members of the staff may not be aware or present at the time (that was my experience).
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Tim York » Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:31 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:
Because it won't. Kabinett is about lightness of touch, not sweetness. I've had plenty of heavy and nearly dry tasting wines labeled as kabinett. THey would have gotten an "off-dry" I am sure.



Let me make it clear that I am not advocating that a new dryness/sweetness classification should replace the QmP labelling system, one of the most informative I know. But if there is an international standard, this should be supplementary information. In the case of heavy and nearly dry Kabinett which you mention, "off-dry" is more helpful than Kabinett.

David M. Bueker wrote:A bad system is worse than no system in my opinion. It builds false confidence that, once dashed, can never be rebuilt.


In my judgement, the proposed system will be nothing like that bad. Of course, there may be a bias towards labelling in the dry direction to guard against.

Thomas wrote:
In other words, I don't think the words dry, etc., are very good at defining wine. And the endless conversations I refer to are the ones I've been hearing and having about this dry/sweet stuff for the past 25 years.

I did say my thinking is not mainstream, but don't you believe that there has to be a better way?


"Dry", "off-dry", etc. may not be perfect terms but they have the advantage of existing and being roughly understood. Why not propose a better way?
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Thomas » Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:04 pm

Tim York wrote:
Thomas wrote:
In other words, I don't think the words dry, etc., are very good at defining wine. And the endless conversations I refer to are the ones I've been hearing and having about this dry/sweet stuff for the past 25 years.

I did say my thinking is not mainstream, but don't you believe that there has to be a better way?


"Dry", "off-dry", etc. may not be perfect terms but they have the advantage of existing and being roughly understood. Why not propose a better way?


No one in the official echelons has asked me to do so, and each time I propose something on a wine bb I get myself into a scrape with an agenda freak or with someone lacking the ability to think creatively--or maybe I'm just a sloppy online communicator! Anyway, here goes...

After many years in the wine biz, especially the years selling wine to consumers, I'm convinced (or maybe I have convinced myself) that the main reasons most people say they like dry but prefer sweet wine include:

1. they have no idea what the word dry is supposed to be referring to (except a vague sense that it is not referring to Mogen David wine)

2. they have been led to believe that dry wine is more elegant and socially acceptable than the other stuff

3. they want something to drink with dinner and have been told that only dry wine goes with dinner

4. they actually do prefer sweet wine

As I laid it out in an earlier post that you must have missed, Tim, my proposal is to refer to wines in more general categories like best with food (with a suggested list), best for sipping (and for geeky analysis), best for dessert. As I also said, I would fix the present sparkling wine classification because that isn't only confusing to people, it may very well be downright deceptive! But I'm unsure how to go about fixing it.

That's my beginning shot. I'm sure others can come up with equally good or better possibilities, but people and things being as they are, change is not only scary, it's seen as subversive!
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Max Hauser » Wed Jul 30, 2008 6:42 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:
Tim York wrote:Why not for QmP wines, David? We already have Kabinett, Spätlese and possibly Auslese trocken. And the classification might help to identify an auslese masquerading as Kabinett.
Because it won't. Kabinett is about lightness of touch, not sweetness.

I mentioned upthread "mixing up weight and sweetness" in popular writings about German wines. Partly with such help, some of the public thinks the German predicates are sweetness levels. (Contrary to legal definitions specifying density of the must, and contrary to examples I have on hand of Kabinett wines sweeter to the taste than Auselese wines I also have. Because of other factors outside the predicate designations.)

One such person was my dentist. I gave him and his excellent staff gifts of German wines with a little age, and suggested a complex, sweet-acid-balanced Auslese for pairing with roast meats. (A good one.) I got an astounded phone message a couple days later. Entertaining weekend guests over a roast turkey, the dentist had reluctantly opened the Auslese, I think at their urging. It was a superb combination, a new taste experience. By the time he called me to report this, he was "converted" and wanted to know more about German wines.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Thomas » Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:44 pm

Max Hauser wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:
Tim York wrote:Why not for QmP wines, David? We already have Kabinett, Spätlese and possibly Auslese trocken. And the classification might help to identify an auslese masquerading as Kabinett.
Because it won't. Kabinett is about lightness of touch, not sweetness.

I mentioned upthread "mixing up weight and sweetness" in popular writings about German wines. Partly with such help, some of the public thinks the German predicates are sweetness levels. (Contrary to legal definitions specifying density of the must, and contrary to examples I have on hand of Kabinett wines sweeter to the taste than Auselese wines I also have. Because of other factors outside the predicate designations.)

One such person was my dentist. I gave him and his excellent staff gifts of German wines with a little age, and suggested a complex, sweet-acid-balanced Auslese for pairing with roast meats. (A good one.) I got an astounded phone message a couple days later. Entertaining weekend guests over a roast turkey, the dentist had reluctantly opened the Auslese, I think at their urging. It was a superb combination, a new taste experience. By the time he called me to report this, he was "converted" and wanted to know more about German wines.


Yeah, Max. You gave him a pairing with food, and that, as Mr. Frost once wrote, made all the difference!

While we are on the subject, many talk about the need to identify this dry/sweet stuff for Riesling, but what about those West Coast sweet Chardonnays that are sold as dry, or the boatloads of blueberry milkshake called Syrah? Why shouldn't there be a scale for that stuff?
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Tim York » Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:35 am

Thomas wrote:After many years in the wine biz, especially the years selling wine to consumers, I'm convinced (or maybe I have convinced myself) that the main reasons most people say they like dry but prefer sweet wine


Is that really true where you are? I do know that many so-called Anglo-Saxons have a strongly "sweet tooth" but .....

In continental Europe, at least in the French speaking and Mediterranean countries which I know best, that is not true. Most "dry" appellations or wines labelled "sec" are just that, with the glaring exceptions of some in Alsace and some white Burgundy which are "off-dry" (French does not really have a term for that though "sec tendre" is used in the Loire valley) but rarely to the extent of many Californian and Australian Chardonnays, which in my book are medium dry..

I have noticed in Germany that a lot of wines labelled "trocken" have some RS but not to the extent of being more than "off-dry" in my book. Some German producers to whom I have spoken admit that the German public is not too keen on bone dry and one (Roman N.... at Wiltingen) has devised the term "harmonic dry" to explain the presence of a little RS.


Thomas wrote:As I laid it out in an earlier post that you must have missed, Tim, my proposal is to refer to wines in more general categories like best with food (with a suggested list), best for sipping (and for geeky analysis), best for dessert. As I also said, I would fix the present sparkling wine classification because that isn't only confusing to people, it may very well be downright deceptive! But I'm unsure how to go about fixing it.

That's my beginning shot. I'm sure others can come up with equally good or better possibilities, but people and things being as they are, change is not only scary, it's seen as subversive!


The trouble about those categories, which are fine in principle, is that they are even more judgmental than categories of dryness/sweetness. They also lack the virtue of conciseness which "dry", etc. have.

I am sure that it was objections like yours and David's which made Olivier Humbrecht come up with his "indice" system in preference to the simple words. My problem with that is that only a geek knows the sysyem by heart and explanation is rarely on hand.

For those who missed it, I repeat (slightly edited) the Belgian importer's explanation of the "indices" from an earlier thread.

“The white wines are noted from 1 to 5 in accordance with a tasting perception of residual sugars. We emphasise tasting perception because the sensation of sweetness is additionally influenced by the acids from the vintage and not only by the quantity of residual sugar.
1 = a fully dry wine (dry)
2 = a wine which is dry for most consumers where others may perceive a faint touch of residual sugar (off-dry)
3 = similar to “demi-sec” (medium dry)
4 = a wine richer than “demi-sec” but less so than “moelleux” (medium sweet)
5 = a wine similar to Vendanges Tardives (usually “moelleux”) without the appellation (sweet)

Vendanges Tardives (VT) and Sélection des Grains Nobles (SGN) are not covered by “indices” as the terms are sufficiently explicit.”
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby David M. Bueker » Thu Jul 31, 2008 7:49 am

Tim,

I'm sure you know this, but I will re-iterate it for the discussion. In Germany trocken can have up to 9 g/l (0.9%) of residual sugar. Human taste threshold is generally regarded to be around 4-5 g/l (plus or minus a little). Most of those trockens with 5 g/l of sugar would taste pretty mean with 0.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Thomas » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:22 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Tim,

I'm sure you know this, but I will re-iterate it for the discussion. In Germany trocken can have up to 9 g/l (0.9%) of residual sugar. Human taste threshold is generally regarded to be around 4-5 g/l (plus or minus a little). Most of those trockens with 5 g/l of sugar would taste pretty mean with 0.


I've tasted them, David; they do taste mean, which goes right back to Tim's point about my categories: "The trouble about those categories, which are fine in principle, is that they are even more judgmental than categories of dryness/sweetness. They also lack the virtue of conciseness which "dry", etc. have."

To me, the trouble with the word "dry" is that it is concise, but it is inaccurate and thereby deceiving. As for my categories being judgmental, perhaps, but my aim with the idea is to get people away from thinking about wine as anything more than a taste they prefer and possibly also get them to explore wine as food.

And yes, Tim, on the bulletin boards you are conversing mainly with Americans who fall into the 5% or so wine consumption category. The rest of Americans aren't so crazed about wine, and they are more likely to prefer sweeter stuff, which is why so-called dry wines on the market are sweet. The nomenclature in that case is used as a marketing tool and is about as accurate a measure as eyeballing the distance in a stadium.

Mind you, I am fully aware that changing an ongoing system is as hard as moving that proverbial rock up a hill, but that is no reason not to start surveying the hill and getting the rock ready.

I'm sure someone out there can come up with a better idea than mine. Someone always can, if it's needed.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Thomas » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:43 am

Tim,

I want to point out one other thing.

My belief is that the original intent of the word "dry" when applied to wine was not to identify what is or isn't in the wine, but to identify how the wine made people's palates feel. Our own Bob Ross once found historical evidence that this may have been the case.

It just so happens that most wines that make your palate feel dry--or dry your palate out--have high acidic/tannic concentrations, and because they were either lacking or low in sugar, the logical extension of the definition of the word was to equate dry with a lack of sugar. The rest is the bastardization of even that concept...

Concise, yes: accurate, hardly.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Tim York » Thu Jul 31, 2008 10:50 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Tim,

I'm sure you know this, but I will re-iterate it for the discussion. In Germany trocken can have up to 9 g/l (0.9%) of residual sugar. Human taste threshold is generally regarded to be around 4-5 g/l (plus or minus a little). Most of those trockens with 5 g/l of sugar would taste pretty mean with 0.


David, if acidity is not very low I have no problem with wines of up to 4-5g/l being described as "dry" or Indice 1. Those that I was referring to closer to 9g/l do not have a "dry" gastronomic use for me unless the acidity is compensatingly high.

I do indeed remember some unacceptably astringent trockens several years ago but I haven't met any lately.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby David M. Bueker » Thu Jul 31, 2008 11:04 am

Tim,

There is also a requirement about acidity for trockens.At that high limit of 9 g/l of rs, the acidity can be no lower than 7 g/l, so things cannot get too flabby.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Sue Courtney » Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:48 pm

A label I was impressed with when I saw it last year was from the Alsace producer, Domaine Baumann in the 'Classic' range. The back label was an encyclopaedia of information and is stated in English as well as French.

For the Domaine Baumann Classic Riesling 2005 (see below), food pairing is indicated by symbols and for the Riesling there's a pig, a chicken, a fish, a lobster and a Chinese character (are there Chinese restaurants in Alsace?).

There's a sweetness level scale. '1' being Sec/Dry and '9' being Liquoreux/Sweet - the Riesling clocks in at number '2', so it's fairly dry.

A bottle indicates the number of years to cellar and a thermometer gives the optimum serving temperature both in Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Lastly there's a tasting note for the wine and for the Riesling it says, "Scents of lime and ripe flavours of apple and quince, with a dense texture underscored by racy acidity. Well, structured, crisp, dry with a pleasant intensity."
baumann.jpg
Baumann Riesling label
baumann.jpg (119.24 KiB) Viewed 2824 times

There is, of course, the alcohol volume too.

The Domain Baumann Pinot Gris 2005 clocked in at '5' on the sweetness scale.

The are the most consumer friendly labels I have seen. But they do highlight a lack of consistency, even in Alsace, given the Humbrecht indice system mentioned above.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby wnissen » Thu Jul 31, 2008 5:14 pm

Just wanted to complain about an Aussie riesling I had last night. Image

11.5% alcohol, label recommended "spicy appetizers." Off-dry, right? Nope. Pretty darn acidic even by my standards, and if there was any residual sugar it was 0.5% or less. Add in spicy chicken meatballs and it was a screecher. With the proper food, it's quite good for a $4 tart dry riesling, but I was left with an inappropriate pairing. Bring on the "dry" labeling!

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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Sue Courtney » Thu Jul 31, 2008 5:23 pm

wnissen wrote:11.5% alcohol, label recommended "spicy appetizers." Off-dry, right? Nope. Pretty darn acidic even by my standards, and if there was any residual sugar it was 0.5% or less. Add in spicy chicken meatballs and it was a screecher. With the proper food, it's quite good for a $4 tart dry riesling, but I was left with an inappropriate pairing. Bring on the "dry" labeling!
Walt

Walt, you can just about bet that all Aussie riesling will be 'dry' unless it is labelled 'Late Harvest', 'Botrytis' or 'Noble'. One I know even has 'Spatlese' on the label to indicate its sweetness. But you soon get to learn that in just about all other situations that Aussie Riesling is dry. They add acid too.
'Spicy appetizer' can be a bit misleading. When I was teaching wine classes, I told my students that most Aussie rieslings pair successfully with food you would pair a slice or wedge of lemon to, i.e. seafood.

Cheers,
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Tim York » Fri Aug 01, 2008 3:49 am

Sue Courtney wrote:
The are the most consumer friendly labels I have seen. But they do highlight a lack of consistency, even in Alsace, given the Humbrecht indice system mentioned above.


Yes, Sue, this is just what we have to avoid.

I guess, but I don't know for sure, that Baumann's scale is the same as ZH's up to 5 (= Moelleux; less sweet than Liquoreux) and that 6-9 are gradations of extra sweetness that Olivier Humbrecht does not feel obliged to specify within the categories Vendanges Tardives and Sélection des Grains Nobles.

I think Baumann has a point. Switching to Germany, I consider that many Auslese are already "sweet" but, without any further descriptor, how do I convey the further sweetness of Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese? At least French has words for that.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Tim York » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:17 am

Thomas wrote: The rest of Americans aren't so crazed about wine, and they are more likely to prefer sweeter stuff, which is why so-called dry wines on the market are sweet. The nomenclature in that case is used as a marketing tool and is about as accurate a measure as eyeballing the distance in a stadium.



That seems to me an argument in favour of an automated dryness/sweetness classification system like the German one for defining "trocken". And if, like the definition of "trocken", it leans towards embracing more sweetness within a definition than I find ideal, I would consider it a price worth paying for having some guidance. As geeks, we would learn to aim-off quite rapidly, like we have with Champagne, where all "sec" is quite sweet and many brands' "brut" have marked RS.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Aug 01, 2008 8:06 am

Tim York wrote:Switching to Germany, I consider that many Auslese are already "sweet" but, without any further descriptor, how do I convey the further sweetness of Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese?


There's no reason to. First of all they are separate classifications that if one takes a minor amount of time to understand (remember Google is your friend) are perfectly clear. Secondly they are so darned expensive that only truly geeky (who know what they mean) or the ridiculously wealthy (who know or really don't care) are buying them.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby David Creighton » Fri Aug 01, 2008 9:53 am

well, we don't stop calling it a green or red light and do away with traffic lights just because some people see them deferently or not at all. most of us understand when our experiences don't exactly match with others; and we know this by the apparently odd way others use common words. we learn what the common and generally accepted parameters are. in other words, we don't have to all experience the world in exactly the same way to learn a common language and to profit by it.

am i correct that the main arguement here is: sugar means nothing - balance is everything. no one should even care if a wine is slightly sweet or even quite sweet as long as it is balanced.(there was that great story about the auslese with turkey - wow, good thing it was turkey and good thing they guy liked the combo; or it wouldn't have been a case in point - or at least not that point. i can tell you there are lots of people who would not have seen the humor in that situation.)

in addition, balance cannot be captured by a number, so even if the system is a relationship between acid and sugar, it can't tell enough of the story to be more useful than the current system of people putting whateveer descriptors on the labels they wish.

if the above two points are accurate statements of the positions of thomas and david, then i and probably tim and a few others might just have to disagree.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Mike Pollard » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:30 pm

I haven't read everything in the thread in detail. But I'd still like to make a few comments.

1) Who/what exactly is the International Riesling Foundation? Does it include the major producers? Is it aiming for an international standard? What will they do if that standard is not acceptable to all countries and producers?

2) In terms of understanding levels of ripeness (which does not reflect sweetness) and dryness (at least in German wines) I've always found the Wines of Germany site very useful.

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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Dave Erickson » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:58 pm

Riesling lovers--wine lovers!-- I have a great (and of course, self-serving) idea: If you want to know whether a Riesling is dry, or off-dry, or whether it will go with your grilled pork loin with mango chutney, why not ASK YOUR WINE MERCHANT. It's our job to taste new vintages when they come in. It's our job to get to know you and your preferences. Let us do our job, and we'll do our best to find a wine you'll enjoy.
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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Sue Courtney » Fri Aug 01, 2008 4:52 pm

Mike Pollard wrote:1) Who/what exactly is the International Riesling Foundation? Does it include the major producers? Is it aiming for an international standard? What will they do if that standard is not acceptable to all countries and producers?
Mike

IRF has representatives from several countries/regions on the founding committee,
There are 30 members and producer representatives actively supporting the group are from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Washington, Oregon, California, Michigan, New York and Germany. The group was formed late last year.
Here's a a link to the first Press Release - http://www.fingerlakes.org/press_releas ... -03-07.htm

Interestingly the producer winery now representing New Zealand is one that has traditionally put nothing on the label that they didn't have to. Until 2007, when residual sugar was stated for the first time, all the back label told you in 2 or 3 lines was where the producer is located.
The addition of residual sugar, at least, is useful information for diabetics but as others have said, should not be restricted to Riesling. And rs alone does not tell the whole story in a high acid grape like Riesling.

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Re: News: At last a 'taste scale' classification for Riesling

Postby Mike Pollard » Fri Aug 01, 2008 5:15 pm

Not to be overly critical Sue, but most of the list of "industry luminaries" in that press release leave me somewhat less than impressed.

Your comment that "residual sugar alone does not tell the whole story in a high acid grape like Riesling" is a significant point, and one reason why I put up the links to the Wines of Germany site. The discussion there on ripeness and dryness really does help explain why there can be such diversity from this variety.

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