In the post-Cristal era hip-hop, the rap-world palate for wine has expanded considerably. Moscato has been an obsession for years, Common described his flow as a “pinot noir” that gets better with age, and Action Bronson has a whole song called “Shiraz.”
But of all the varietals that unite oenophiles and hip-hop fans, riesling seems to have the most potential (though its unclear whether it’s more beloved by MCs for its linguistic or gustatory properties). Only Tech N9ne, on the Krizz Kaliko track “Get Off,” mentions a specific brand—the Washington-state powerhouse Columbia Winery (“Peppercorn filets and Columbia Winery Riesling / We swollen now”), which for him is the perfect accompaniment to a ménage-a-trois. But for other rappers who favor the Germanic white wine, we’re left to guess which bottle they’re reaching for.
To figure out which wines to pair with our favorite riesling-referencing rappers, we asked beverage director Chad Walsh of The Dutch to do some hip-hop sommelier-ing and match their verses with an appropriate bottle or two.
Fab is the crown prince of riesling connoisseurship, and for him, a crisp white wine and a joint are the perfect way to cope with the pressures of wealth and fame. He wrote a whole song about it called “Riesling and Rolling Papers”:
People say I changed; it’s not me, it’s the money
It’s the middle of the winter but they got me where it’s sunny
And I’m not just being funny, I know no other way
Let’s just finish up this riesling and roll another J
You’re definitely not going to get away with passing off some swill on this guy—it’s got to be a serious producer, preferably with some history, and a deep cellar. The question then comes down to style, and as Fab explains on “Toast to the Good Life,” he is going to want something with a little richness: “It’s talked about with good reasoning / Over good steaks, and sweet riesling.” The Mosel seems like the way to go, like a Spätlese from the famed house of Zilliken—specifically the Saarburger Rausch from 2002. The sweetness is definitely there, but it’s balanced by ripping acidity, so it won’t seem flabby when served with a main course.
Jay Z has a knack for taking obscure rich-guy stuff and blasting it off into the pop-culture stratosphere, which is exactly what he did with riesling on “Tom Ford”:
Paris where we been, pard’ my Parisian
It’s Hov time in no time, it’s fuck-all-y’all season
Piss Bordeaux and Burgundies, flush out a Riesling
If he’s sharing a bottle with Beyoncé, Jay would likely insist on going French, so a regal Alsatian expression would be my best recommendation. For a truly special night, like a post-VMAs toast, something like the incredibly difficult-to-find Clos St. Hune, a three-acre site within the Grand Cru Rosacker, owned wholly by Trimbach, the Alsatian juggernaut. Only 8000 bottles are produced in good vintages, making it sort of the Birkin bag of riesling; even more rare late-harvest examples, known as Vendage Tardive, or Sélection Grains Noble, are the ostrich and crocodile finishes. For something to stock the pied-à-terre fridge with, perhaps the cult producer Albert Boxler’s Riesling Réserve, made from young vines in the Grand Cru vineyards of Brand and Sommerberg—the 2011’s, in particular, are drinking great.
Of course, “Tom Ford” wasn’t the first time riesling was mentioned on a Jay Z track—perhaps he picked up the habit from his collaborator Kanye West on 2009’s “Run This Town”:
She got an ass that’ll swallow up a G-string
And up top, ah, two bee stings
And I’m beasting off the Riesling
As a tableau of half-nude Swedish models reenact the victories of Gustavus Aldophous in an old cathedral, I can picture West sipping on the vibrantly, almost unearthly colored Smaragd Rieslings of Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, from Austria’s Wachau region (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). These are heady wines, opulent by Austrian standards, and the Singerriedel vineyard is one of the best in the region for growing riesling. Sophisticated, complex, and thick in all the right places, just like Kim.
When he’s not talking about fish sandwiches from Micky D’s, Joell Ortiz—the Brooklyn-repping Slaughterhouse MC—has been known celebrate his love for drinking, as he did during this Rap City freestyle:
Move g-strings like guitars, that’s nothing,
That’s something light, like Riesling at the bar
As a proud New Yorker, Ortiz would probably choose to rep his home state, which isn’t hard with the myriad of options coming down from the Finger Lakes. The “New York Dry” style can actually be a bit sweet, so since he seems to prefer things on the more delicate side, I would go with Sheldrake Point’s Dry cuvee, which is truly dry. The acidity isn’t out of control, and it has a filigreed minerality, with just enough ripe fruit to please the G-string set.
A man with a name like Theophilus ought to have refined tastes, so it’s no surprise that Mr. London talks that riesling talk on “Flying Overseas”:
Mr. Taxi Man
It’s been along time, I’ll be back again
The birds and the bees be attracting them
The pretty little flowers on the racks a’blend
Fulfilled with meaning, let’s sip the Riesling
Although there are some true hipsters making Riesling in Europe, Theophilus London seems like the kind of guy who would appreciate the twee labels of Oregon’s Tuetonic Wine Company. The wines aren’t cheap, considering they are often made from varieties one doesn’t associate with the Willamette Valley, like Pinot Meunier (a.k.a., Scwarzriesling), Chasselas, and—in the case of their Crow Valley single vineyard bottling—Riesling. Although the 2012 was sweet, with 20 grams per liter of residual sugar, it didn’t seem sticky, since it balanced out the aggressive acid. Since it weighs in at a highly quaffable 8.8% alcohol, London would be able to have a bottle or two without sacrificing his ability to romance.
Willie the Kid
Like Action Bronson’s culinary clout, Willie the Kid’s sybaritic leanings have been widely commented on. On Roc Marciano’s food-centric “Sincerely Antique,” in which rhymes “eating pheasant in London” with “Jameson,” Willie discloses that, apparently, he goes to tastings. I’ll be looking out for him at the next Kermit Lynch event:
Black 550s at the wine tasting
Bitches bathe in the basin
Send him my regards like a bullet from my enemies
Sip riesling, we collect the shell casings, case in point
On Alchemist’s third studio release, Russian Roulette, Willie takes a turn on Part 6 of “The Kosmos,” entitled “Life on Another Planet”:
You might of saw me on the bulletin
Bullet fragments, metallic pieces in my thesis
Ultra violet rays, riesling, private beaches
Although I expect he goes for some fancy French stuff (like Alsace’s Weinbach )when he’s on the road, the Grand Rapids-born MC likely stocks his own fridge with hometown juice. It will be surprising to some, but Chateau Grand Traverse, on the Old Mission Peninsula, actually turns out some world-class Michigan wines, and the Whole Cluster releases of riesling are some of the best examples of the variety stateside.
On “15 Minutes” from his 2014 debut The Fresh Prince of Darkness, Mic Terror raps:
I’m just enjoying freedom, smoking dope, sippin’ riesling
Poking hoes in your region, I’m in Chicago freakin’!
Although these aren’t the kind of magnums he was talking about, I think we have to go large format. Karthäuserhof, the famed German producer in the village of the same name in the Ruwer region (often lumped together with the Mosel and Saar), releases wines every year in the tallest, most ridiculously narrow 1.5L bottles that, like Mic Terror, are slightly intimidating. The drier wines are always amazing, and I can imagine the ’12 Kabinett pairing perfectly with some baggies of Afghan.
Chad Walsh is the beverage manager for The Dutch in NYC. He writes about wine and booze for publications such as Food Republic, and he claims he’s “not really a rap expert.”