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Celebrating a Thai Holiday with a German Accent

Leitz Kabinett Riesling Rheingau Rüdesheimer Klosterlay 2007
Dana Nigro
Posted: April 20, 2011

The Thai New Year, or Songkran festival, isn’t a holiday I’ve previously had occasion to celebrate, but inspired by a vacation to Thailand and a love of the country’s food, my brother and his wife organized a family dinner at a favorite local New Jersey restaurant, which was marking the festivities with specials and dance performances.

Of course I brought along a few bottles of off-dry Riesling, though not wanting to hew strictly to culinary stereotypes, I also grabbed a lemongrass-scented Sauvignon Blanc and a lighter, berry-flavored Pinot Noir to experiment with as matches. Sadly, they only served to show why Riesling is such a go-to wine for Thai food, falling flat against many of the vibrant, intensely spicy flavors with which we started the meal.

Admittedly, the evening went by in a blur of dishes whose names I didn’t all catch, as my brother and his wife did the ordering and the plates were rapidly passed. The table was groaning with sampler platters and other appetizers such as steamed mussels in a curry sauce, a spicy beef salad (yum nur) and a green papaya salad (som tum) full of fiery chiles that caused tears to stream down my cheeks. After the latter, nothing would do but the softly sweet peach and nectarine flavors of the Leitz Kabinett Klosterlay 2007 (or some Thai beer) to soothe our anguished-but-happy taste buds.

Next came a series of noodle dishes, some spicy (pad kee mau), some not, a tamarind chicken and a whole roasted fish with a mango-based sort of slaw, among other items. With its lively acidity, the Leitz (which I found for $19) held up admirably throughout it all, its accents of citrus and stony minerals giving a lift to the bright herbal and sweet-and-sour fruit elements in many of the dishes. 89 points, non-blind.

As for the other wines, it was only that we didn’t choose the right dishes to pair with them. Oh well, there’s always next New Year to try again. members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Riesling Kabinett Rheingau Rüdesheimer Klosterlay 2007 (90, $22).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Top Values among German Rieslings, for $25 or less.

Member comments   1 comment(s)

Martin Palmer — Hong Kong —  April 20, 2011 7:25am ET

Dear Ms.Nigro,

Thank You for your informative article about how well German dry or off-dry Riesling matches with Thai Cuisine.

I come from a wine village in the Nahe Region of German and in 2008 opened a Boutique Wine Company in Hong Kong which exclusively imports and distributes the 1.Lage wines of three top VDP Nahe wine estates: Weingut Tesch, Weingut Kruger-Rumpf and Weingut Schaefer-Froehlich (2010 Gault Millau German Wine Maker of the Year).

The "exotic" spices found in Asia such as chilli, star anis and ginger blend harmoniously with either dry, off-dry or sweet (residual sugar) German Riesling.

I attended sommelier and wine school in Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009 to receive a professional education.

I do not sell my 1.Lage wines to wine shops in Hong Kong. Only directly to fine dining establishments or private clients.

I wish you all the best and look forward to your next article about pairing German Riesling with the cuisine's of the Far East.

With greetings from Hong Kong,

Martin Palmer

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