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Riesling wines hard to get, but worth it

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
May 28, 2003
I've tried to avoid being one of the many critics of how the Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control warehouse runs its business, but it hasn't been easy. This time it's impossible.
Last week's column listed seven Riesling based wines we planned to serve at our May 29 wine tasting. We ordered them about the time the column was written. One day later the people who run the warehouse informed us four of the seven were out of stock.
We selected four others. Two were out of stock. We chose four others. Two more were no longer available through the state of Mississippi.
Of the 15 Riesling wines we attempted to buy for our Meridian tasting this week, eight were out of stock. If the ABC were a private business they'd be in serious financial trouble.
Of course it could mean Mississippi wine buyers have discovered that Rieslings are marvelous wines at very reasonable prices. I prefer to think that's the case. If so, it's a tribute to their good taste and the ability to scout out a bargain. These wines are both. Great tasting and bargains.
And despite the difficulty in putting this tasting together we have found an excellent selection of typical wines from the Riesling grape. They are extremely popular in the rest of the world and America is really just now discovering what wine drinkers in other countries have known for years. The Riesling grape makes great wines.
After a series of phone calls from our local package store we found seven fine Riesling wines we are proud to offer Thursday evening. The two key wines from Germany for those tasting were both in stock and that was, and is, exciting. But I do not understand why the state warehouse waits until its inventory is completely out before reordering. So be it.
The wine list for Thursday now includes Rieslings from California, the states of Washington and Oregon, the Alsace region of France and Germany.
If you've never enjoyed the product from this great grape it is somewhat like the chenin blancs with a touch of sweetness but the necessary acidity to keep it from being sugary. It is one of the most popular wine varietals in the world and justly so. It is also the first time we have featured them, but it is the best time because these are great summertime patio wines.
The California Rieslings to be served are made by Firestone winery and Kendall Jackson. Firestone is an excellent producer. Kendall Jackson is one of the most successful wine makers in the world. Their chardonnay is one of the biggest sellers in the United States and their Riesling deserves the same type of respect.
The state of Washington is represented by Hogue, another famed wine maker. The state of Oregon wine was made by Elk Cove, makers of that stunning ice wine we tasted last year and one that sold out quickly after the tasting.
We've managed to find a supply of Hugel Riesling made in the Alsace region of France. Alsace is considered the finest area in the world for these wines. It is a romantic area with its medieval towns and cobbled streets. Riesling is one of the four principal grapes grown there and the wine produced is considered world class.
Finally, we will showcase two marvelous German wines, one a late harvest ausleser and the other a mid-harvest spatleser. Auslese and spatlese are German names that delineate the amount of sugar in the wine. The longer grapes remain on the vine the more sugar they produce, and German wine labels are designed to inform you of what to expect. We tasted the auslese this past weekend and it was wonderful with great depth and a rich flavor.
Next tasting
The price of this tasting is only $25 per seat. For that, you will taste seven of these great wines and, believe me, you will be delighted at what this little-known grape in Mississippi has to offer. As usual, the tasting will be at Northwood Country Club and the public is invited. We start at 6:30 p.m. Please call 482-0930 and make a reservation in order that we know how much wine to have on hand.
As we said, this all-white wine tasting will offer you wonderful alternatives for your summertime wine pleasure. It will open new doors for you, rather than the usual chardonnay, white zin and other wines that are the mainstays for warm weather consuming.
It is an opportunity to broaden your wine drinking knowledge and the timing is perfect. Call and make your reservation tonight, or even tomorrow. We still have places available and you'll love the experience.

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