Holiday season is a great time to discuss the issue of Riesling. Whether in the industry or not you've probably come across this very interesting disconnect between somms and the average consumer. Most wine professionals I know rave about Riesling and think it's the greatest wine in the world, and in many cases consumers think of Riesling as "that sweet wine". So where does this difference of viewpoints come from? Primarily from what Rieslings you have been exposed to.
Firstly it is probably worthwhile to mention that not all Rieslings are sweet. It is a very versatile pairing wine because it's somehow both balanced on it's own and plays well with a wide variety of food. It has great acidity and body, it's flavorful but also a great vehicle for terroir, that old world concept for a wine (or any crop really) that gives the consumer a window to the land it was grown in. While many a somm's top choice for sushi or spicy food for it's ability to be delicate and a powerful foil for heat, it especially shines with Holiday and wintery foods because the dishes served this time of year are so diverse and it meets each one in such a collaborative way.
Riesling is so versatile that it can make great sweet wine or great dry wine, and unfortunately also really awful sweet wine. It is this last category that has consistently had the greatest demand for many many decades, cheap and sweet wines unfairly maligning the word Riesling on their labels while fulfilling the demands of people who like wine that tastes like soda. While understandable that winemakers would mostly make the type of wine that people are asking for, it creates an unfortunate dilemma. If you've only ever had bad overly sweet Riesling, where is your incentive to buy more expensive Riesling? Well as many a restaurant worker or wineshop employee can tell you from experience, adding just 20-30% to your per bottle wine budget can drastically increase the quality of your experience, as can asking for advice and recommendations from the people who work at the store or restaurant where you are shopping. They often get exposed to a wide range of quality wines and can be ambassadors or curators for those often inscrutable bottles, making it easier to shell out a few more dollars for something you've never tried before. While this is good advice for any wine buying adventure for Riesling you are setting yourself up for a world of new wine pleasures. While Riesling is never going to be for everyone it is certainly worth exploring that something so beloved by somms and wine enthusiasts the world over might have something to offer to your holiday table.