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Riesling, that other summer white

A selection of French wines -- bottles of

A selection of French wines -- bottles of Domaine Weinbach Riesling wine, Lucien Crochet Sancerre wine and Chateau Simard wine. (July 6, 2011) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Chardonnay is revered as the king of white-wine grapes, and it's definitely the most popular varietal on store shelves and restaurant lists. But the crown for white wine must be shared with riesling.

Consumers benefit both ways with terrific riesling, often at very good prices.

Riesling is the great grape of Germany and the Alsace province of France. And you'll find fine riesling in Australia, Canada and the United States. Upstate New York produces appealing riesling and, on Long Island, excellent riesling is made by Paumanok and Jamesport, among others.

The styles of riesling range from the very dry, flinty wines in Alsace to the richest dessert wines, which peak with Germany's fabulous, rare mouthful, trockenbeerenauslese, rich on the palate, traumatic to the budget. I recall a classic Alsatian meal, far too long ago, at L'Auberge de l'Ill, the wonderful restaurant in Illhaeusern, where riesling was as essential an ingredient to the cooking as it was to the drinking.

For an easygoing intro, try the crisp, peachy 2010 Clean Slate Riesling, a $10 bargain from the Mosel region of Germany. Consider it a foil for spicy Asian fare.

The 2002 Domaine Weinbach Riesling Reserve is a ripe, full-bodied, dry Alsatian, ideal with charcuterie, baked ham, smoked fish, even more restrained curries. About $22. And the 2009 Hugel Riesling Classic, fresh and dry, is instantly enjoyable, solo, with shellfish, maybe a not-too-tangy goat cheese. About $24.

A modest, floral intro to the grape: the 2010 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Riesling, a satisfying, balanced production, for $11.

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