Two decades ago many U.S. grape growers were ripping out Riesling vines to plant more Chardonnay as Riesling was falling out of favor in the marketplace. Today consumers have rediscovered Riesling making it the fastest growing white wine varietal for the third straight year.
During the 12 month period ending May 3, 2008, Riesling was the fastest growing white varietal and second fastest growing of all varietals, second to Pinot Noir, according to AC Nielsen. Sales of Riesling have increased 54% over the past 3 years (according to Nielsen data). At the forefront of the growth of the Riesling category is Washington state’s founding winery Chateau Ste. Michelle, whose Columbia Valley Riesling is the best selling Riesling in the United States. The winery is the leading global Riesling producer and the category leader of this growing Riesling market.
Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker Bob Bertheau attributes the resurgence of Riesling to the appealing flavor of the wine and its tremendous food affinity.
“One of the best things about Riesling is that it tends to be low in alcohol, yet high in character, aromatics and flavor,” says Bertheau. “Its fruitiness and crisp acidity makes it wonderful with food, especially spicy cuisines. And there is no other grape variety in the world that can be made in so many different styles, from bone dry to decadently sweet and everything in between. It astonishes me how well Riesling captures the taste - the terroir - of where it's grown.”
Chateau Ste. Michelle has been a champion of Riesling for more than 40 years and was among the first to plant Riesling in the state of Washington. Ste. Michelle was catapulted into the national spotlight when its 1972 Johannisberg Riesling won the now-famous Riesling blind tasting sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. Today, Chateau Ste. Michelle offers up to eight different Riesling styles designed to showcase the versatility of Riesling and the regional styles within Washington’s Columbia Valley, which produces more Riesling than any other American wine region.
“We attribute our success with Riesling to the unique growing conditions of Washington state, which is ideally suited for Riesling, as well as our long term commitment to producing top quality Riesling,” says Ste. Michelle Wine Estates President Ted Baseler. “One of the goals of Ste. Michelle since the winery was founded has been to continually improve the quality and image of Riesling. It is rewarding now to see consumers discover the great qualities of this noble white grape.”
Riesling Gets its Own Event
Chateau Ste. Michelle’s commitment to Riesling led it to host the largest trade event dedicated to Riesling in the United States called “Riesling Rendezvous” held June 2007. Co-hosted by Dr. Loosen, the highly acclaimed German Riesling estate and partner with Ste. Michelle on Eroica Riesling, the event is designed to bring together leading Riesling experts and producers to explore the versatility of Rieslings from around the world. The event was so successful, Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen will host the second Riesling Rendezvous July 27-29, 2008 at Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Woodinville, Washington, which will feature a grand consumer tasting, blind panel tastings and interactive breakout sessions.
“The success of last year's program, combined with global interest in Riesling, encouraged us to hold the event again,” says Baseler. “It is an honor to have winemakers from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, California and New York come to Seattle to celebrate Riesling. This year’s program will allow Riesling experts, winemakers, journalists, trade and devoted Riesling fans to explore all aspects of Riesling.”
Riesling Rendezvous kicks off with a grand consumer tasting on the grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle on Sunday, July 27th from 5-8 p.m. featuring 70 wineries from around the world. July 28th is dedicated to blind tastings guided by distinguished producers to explore Riesling styles, from powerful dry wines of Austria, Alsace and Australia to the elegant German variations and flavorful, spicy interpretations from North America. July 29th features break out sessions at the Westin Bellevue on compelling Riesling issues, including: Ageability of Riesling, Riesling at the Table, Decoding Riesling for the U.S. Market, Producers Only Roundtable, Discovering New World Riesling Terroir and Digging into Old World Riesling Terroir.
The event will be moderated by eminent Riesling authority and noted author Stuart Pigott. Panelists scheduled to participate include Mosel winegrower Ernst Loosen, Saar winegrower Egon Müller, Alsace winegrower Pierre Trimbach, Austrian winegrower Fred Loimer, Australian winemaker Stephen Henschke, esteemed wine writer Tom Stevenson, wine writer Bob Campbell MW, Washington winemaker Bob Bertheau, Austrian winegrower Christine Saahs, wine writer Karen MacNeil, Australian winemaker Louisa Rose, wine writer Paul Lukacs, Nahe producer Helmut Dönnhoff, Riesling importer Terry Theise, and many others.
To purchase tickets for the July 27th Riesling Rendezvous Grand Tasting, go to ste-michelle.com/riesling. Tickets are $50. (Attendance is limited to ages 21 and older.) Tickets for the July 28 & 29 trade seminars are sold out.
About Chateau Ste. Michelle
Founded in 1934, Chateau Ste. Michelle pioneered vinifera grape growing in Washington state and has been producing classic European varietal wines under the Chateau Ste. Michelle label since 1967. The winery combines an ongoing dedication to research with a commitment to classic winemaking traditions. The winery owns 3,500 acres of vineyards in the Columbia Valley of eastern Washington, including Canoe Ridge Estate and Cold Creek. Chateau Ste. Michelle enjoys winemaking partnerships with two of the world’s most distinguished vintners. Col Solare is an alliance with Tuscany’s Piero Antinori and Eroica Riesling is a partnership with the Mosel’s Ernst Loosen.
Riesling Rendezvous is a service mark of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd.
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