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Wine Advisor Express:
Riesling and fire

I have never fully understood why German Riesling isn't a runaway best-seller, particularly in the U.S., where many people drink sweet soft drinks by the tank-car load. Riesling seems to have all the ingredients for success: it's made from one of the most noble of wine grapes, and - particularly at the ripeness level that the Germans call "Kabinett" - it's light, fresh, low in calories, easy to quaff and slightly sweet, with fresh-fruit sugar nicely balanced by refreshing acidity. You could call it a soft drink for adults!

Frankly, though, even though I preach this sermon, I'm as bad as most everyone else: I talk a good Riesling game, but I actually reach out for a German wine no more than a few times each year.

I'm not sure where the problem lies. Maybe it's the complicated labels, or memories of the cheap Liebfraumilch that we considered sophisticated stuff back in the '70s. Or maybe it's just that we've grown so accustomed to the dry, tart style of the French and Italian varieties and their New World counterparts that we find German wines distinctly and disturbingly different.

But here's one more good reason to pull the cork from a Riesling: When you've got something hot and spicy on the table, from Mexican or Cajun fare to fiery curries, Szechwanese cuisine, or a tasty treat from Vietnam or Thailand, a fruity, off-dry Riesling seems to make a happy match where few other wines will work.

I love hot food, but I rarely accompany it with dry table wines because, in my experience, the combination of dry wine and hot chile peppers turns pleasure into pain. But substitute a Riesling for that Merlot or Chardonnay, and suddenly your curry sings with the wine. Soft fruit and light sweetness seem to ameliorate the heat, and the relatively low alcohol level of Kabinetts (today's featured wine was only 8 percent) seems to avoid that unpleasant "burn."

Try it ... I think you'll like it.

Merkelbach Alfred Merkelbach 1999er Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett ($9.99)
This wine from the Mosel is clear and almost as pale as water, with just a glint of straw color; many tiny bubbles line the glass. Fresh and pleasant scents combine delicate wildflowers, tangerine and a mineral note. Light and crisp, flavors follow the nose; distinct fresh-fruit sweetness is balanced by a tart, citric snap. Quenching and fresh, it's surprisingly good with fiery fare. U.S. importer: Michael Skurnik Wines Inc., Syosset, N.Y.; a Terry Theise Selection. (Oct. 31, 2001).

FOOD MATCH: A light Chinese shredded chicken salad with cucumbers, scallions and a generous dollop of hot chile-pepper flavor in a sweet-tart dressing makes an unexpectedly fine match.

Wine Toon Calendar 2002:
A year of wine and laughter

Looking for a good holiday "stocking stuffer" for yourself or a wine-loving friend? You can't go wrong with the new Wine Toon Calendar, only from Wine Lovers Page! Our monthly wall calendar contains a chuckle-worthy collection of cartoonist Chuck Stoudt's zany wine 'toons ... plus dozens of favorite wine quotes for every season, AND more than 100 highlighted Wine Web Links, two every week!

Buy one for your wine cellar and another for your office ... and they make great gifts! Offer them in your wine store, your catalog, or your wine club (contact us by E-mail for information about wholesale prices for re-selling).

While supplies last, order the Wine Toon Calendar at It's only $11.99 (plus $2 shipping and handling for U.S. shipments, $4 for all other countries). Buy one for yourself, and more for your wine-loving friends, and you'll be all set for holiday giving.

And don't forget: Your purchase helps support and The 30 Second Wine Advisor!

This is Wine Advisor Express, daily edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, distributed Tuesdays through Fridays. For archives of previous articles, and to read more about wine, visit Wine Lovers' Page,

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Thursday, Nov. 1, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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