Many people avoid Rieslings because they don’t drink sweet wine. However, Rieslings can be completely dry, extremely sweet, and everything in between. The trouble is that it’s often difficult to tell how sweet any given bottle will be. I've written before about the German system that can help with this, but now there's an even easier way!
The International Riesling Foundation has come to the rescue! It has developed a sweetness scale that winemakers can include on their labels. This scale is designed to “make it easier for consumers to predict the taste they can expect from a particular bottle of Riesling,” help consumers find wines they’ll enjoy, and thus help producers sell more wine. The scale is entirely voluntary, but hopefully many producers will decide to participate. (The scale was first available for the 2008 vintage.)
The scale uses the terms “dry, medium dry, medium sweet, and sweet.” Determining in which category a wine belongs is not just a matter of measuring the sugar. This is because the amount of acid in the wine changes our perception of the sweetness. If you tasted 2 wines with the same level of sugar, but one had more acid, the one with higher acid would taste less sweet. The IRF gives us this explanation:
The IRF says, “To help wine makers consider which terms to use for various wines, the committee developed a technical chart of parameters involving the interplay of sugar, acid, and pH which helps determine the probable taste profile of a particular wine.” This table summarizes how the calculation works, starting with the base ratio of sugar to acid, adjusting for higher or lower pH, and then showing the resulting sweetness level.
The great thing about this scale is that we as consumers can know what to expect from a bottle of Riesling without worrying about the technical calculations! Rieslings can be truly wonderful wines. Maybe this scale will help more people give them a try.