The Versatale Reisling


By Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,

This week we’ll celebrate springtime with a discussion of my first love, a grape that I still enjoy. Some say it’s the best, many others have yet to try one.

I look forward to seeing you at the big Riverfest Wine Tasting, “Art on the River,” a benefit for the Thea Foundation from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Little Rock River Market’s west pavilion. More details are available at under the “Attractions” button. Look for Wine Tasting Event Conducted by Bruce Cochran. With 30 wines from 18 wineries, foods to match from area restaurants and caterers, this will be a fine learning event. Tickets are $25 advance or $30 at the door.

Try a new wine this week!


Kung Fu Girl Riesling

I can’t think of a more versatile grape variety than Riesling. Though its past reputation was that of a sweet white wine, many are quite dry. My favorite style is off-dry (meaning just a hint of residual sugar), balanced with a crisp, green apple acidity, or tartness, which can also vary a lot. Riesling is very food-friendly. Few wines make a better pairing for Asian dishes.

What causes the different styles? Climate first, winemaking second, in my opinion, and of course minerals in the soil. This grape is grown all over the world, and you can almost always tell where when you taste it. The Riesling grape is originally from Germany, some of the coldest vineyards in the world. Riesling likes that, as it helps the grapes to retain that crisp, tense, green apple acidity, but it’s also more difficult to ripen grapes fully in such a northerly climate. That’s why most German wine regions are along rivers. Not only can they reflect sunlight up to the vineyards (many of which are very steeply pitched), but they hold the day’s heat, slowly releasing it after sundown.

Riesling is grown in California, too, but only a few areas of the state are cool enough for the elegance and style that I like. A sweeter style is possible in a few places, but somehow drying them out seems to leave a bitterness in many of them.

Alsace, that region in France that borders Germany’s Rhine River, has long been known for Riesling. They differ from their German counterparts, being a little fuller and less delicate. They typically have higher alcohol levels, being grown in a slightly warmer, more southerly climate.

I’ve had Riesling I like from other places, too. Australia, Chile, South Africa and northern Italy can successfully grow this grape, and I’ve had some I like from Oregon.

But if there’s one place in the world that really seems suited to fine, elegant, crisp, green-apple, Mosel-style Rieslings, it’s Washington State. Warm, sunny days and chilly nights, a hallmark of a dry climate. Chateau Ste. Michelle first popularized Washington State Riesling long ago, and today there’s a new one, literally a rock star. Charles Smith Wines’ “Kung Fu Girl” Riesling is the name. And not only is it delicious, but it’s extremely food friendly. It retails in the $10-$15 range. This is a new arrival, anxiously awaited by many. The 2009 Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Charles Smith Wines was just released this year, and the winery is already out, although they had doubled the previous vintage’s production.

And Charles Smith is a rock star. Just check out his Web site, and you’ll see for yourself. “Food and Wine” Winemaker of the Year 2009.

Bruce Cochran has traveled to every major wine region on four continents. A 30-year veteran of the wine trade, he taught continuing education wine classes for 26 years at colleges throughout Arkansas.

Categories: Legacy Archive