André Simon Awards: The Wine Dine Dictionary

Victoria Moore’s The Wine Dine Dictionary was awarded a special commendation at this year’s André Simon Awards, with judge Joe Fattorini saying it was one of those rare books that made the language of wine as interesting as wine itself and was the sort of book that kept moving you around until you were “miles away” from where you originally began. Below is an abridged extract from the section on Riesling.

what it tastes like: Riesling is a bracing white grape most easily recognised by its piercing acidity, plus its intense lime scent when it’s young and the strangely petrol-like fragrance it can develop as it ages.

It is a paradox of a grape – admired and adored by wine lovers, but not popular with everyone else. Or, as American wine importer Terry Theise once put it, ‘People are happy to say they drink dry Riesling but the numbers don’t support it. There’s still a disconnect between what people say and what they pony up for.’

For a long time it has been fashionable to urge people to Drink More Riesling. I often fear I’ll answer the front door to find a couple of Riesling supporters handing out ‘The Riesling Tower’ pamphlets, determined to help me on to a path of righteous Riesling-loving.

I’m not going to be like that. I think Riesling is great. If you don’t agree, we can still be friends. For those who think they might be a convert if only it were easier to find the type of Riesling you like, I hope this brief guide is helpful.

Young dry Riesling tastes like a sharp blade of steel swishing through an airborne fresh lime. This is a grape that has a brain-rinsing acidity to match that of Sauvignon Blanc.

Riesling is not always dry, of course. It is made in a range of sweetness levels from off-dry to very sweet and it’s thanks to its raging acidity that the sweeter wines still taste perky and alert. Riesling unfurls as it ages, unleashing flavours from wild honey to lime blossom to toast to paraffin.

what to eat: Whether it’s the brain-rinsing cut and slice of a bone-dry wine from the Eden Valley, or the gentle tonic and dance of a sweeter Mosel, a cold glass of Riesling makes a brilliant stand-alone aperitif.

Riesling is also an outstanding food wine. There is almost no end to the number of dishes it complements (and which return the favour) and Riesling has the distinction of counting Thai and Vietnamese as well as traditional European food among its best dinner table companions.

Riesling has a luminosity that is perfectly met by the salty-sour-sweet flavours found in South-East Asian and fusion food. Its vibrant citrus soars beside the sear of fresh lime, the fire of ginger and the tang of green mango and papaya; its lively acidity is the perfect foil for the saltiness of nam pla; and its flighty energy is good with fresh coriander and lemongrass. However, it’s worth considering sweetness levels.

Finally, a half-German friend introduced me to Riesling soup, which is made with shallots, leeks, Riesling, chicken stock (I guess you could substitute good vegetable stock) and cream. It’s a way to drink and eat at the same time.

Riesling Soup
Serves 4

  • 2 small onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 25gbutter
  • 1 tablespoon plain our
  • 250mldryriesling
  • 400ml light vegetable or chicken stock
  • salt and white pepper
  • a handful of at-leaf parsley, finely chopped 
for the croutons
  • 2 thick slices of crusty white bread, crusts cut off
  • butter

Gently cook the onions, leeks and garlic in the butter for about 10 minutes, until completely soft. Sprinkle over the flour and stir into the vegetables. Keep stirring over the heat for 3–4 minutes to cook out the raw taste of the flour. Add the wine, gradually stirring all the time until it is fully incorporated. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the stock and simmer again for 15 minutes.

Use a stick blender to whizz the soup smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If you want to serve croutons, cut the bread into cubes and fry in butter until golden. Stir the parsley into the soup before serving. Add a few croutons to each bowl if you like.


Reprinted with permission from The Wine Dine Dictionary by Victoria Moore, copyright © 2017. Published by Granta Books.

All these books have been shortlisted in the drinks category for the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards 2017 Founded in 1978, the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards are the only awards in the UK to exclusively recognise the achievements of food and drink writers and are the longest continuous running awards of their kind. The first two awards were given to Elizabeth David and Rosemary Hume for their outstanding contribution in the fields of food and cooking. Other winners include Michel Roux, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Nigel Slater and Rick Stein.

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