A white wine of character
Riesling is the greatest contender for Chardonnay’s crown of the “world’s best white wine grape”. Riesling wines are highly aromatic and they come in a myriad of quality levels and taste styles all the way from mineral to fruity.
Terroir is reflected in its aromatic profile to a degree that few other grape varieties can match. Slate soils imbue wines with minerality, while calcareous soils result in more opulent ones. Typical scents are apple, peach, apricot, lime blossom and rose blossom. As it ages the wine develops the petrol note so admired by its fans and unfolds almond aromas. When vinified medium dry to semi-sweet, it produces floral and honey aromas with a refreshing acidity and well-balanced sweetness. Everyday wines are pale yellow with greenish glints. Superior wines are a strong yellow, sometimes even golden.
Unlike most white wines, Rieslings have excellent bottle-ageing potential. As the grape ripens late, young and fresh wines are also impressive too.
Riesling wine with food
Whether vinified dry or fruity sweet, young Riesling makes the perfect summer wine. As it is light and fresh, and only moderately alcoholic, a chilled glass is perfect for enjoying on warm days, especially with a picnic. Riesling is also great for drinking with fish and poultry dishes at barbecues.
A Riesling wine makes the ideal accompaniment to a feast with several courses. More mature wines are best here. Dry and off-dry Rieslings pair beautifully with lighter starters such as steamed or boiled fish or poultry with creamy sauces. They are also excellent with cream cheese. Their fresh accentuated acidity acts as a counterbalance to heavier dishes, while floral nuances with notes of exotic fruits make them a splendid accompaniment to desserts too. Those who prefer a drier option rather than a usually very sweet dessert wine will choose a Riesling. Connoisseurs can choose between fruity, sweet late harvest or lusciously sweet Auslese styles.
Cultivation of the noble grape
The Riesling grape prefers steep slopes, but it is relatively unfussy about soil type and the training system used. However, it is prone to noble rot, Botrytis cinerea, which poses a challenge to winegrowers. Because Riesling grapes retain their acidity as they ripen, this variety is suitable for all types of select harvest approaches. As it is a late-ripening grape, the best wines are produced in more northern climates.
is the home of Riesling wine. It has been cultivated there for over 500 years. The best Rieslings come from the steep slopes of the Rhine and Moselle valleys.
, Riesling wine production is permitted only in Alsace. There it is usually vinified dry and is more full-bodied and has a higher alcohol content than its German cousins. The Alsace Grand Cru appellation also includes first-class Rieslings.
There are rarely any “true” Rieslings in the rest of Europe. Instead there is a lot of Welschriesling, a simpler grape variety that is genetically completely unrelated. Synonyms for Welschriesling are Riesling Italico, Laski-Rizling and Olaszrizling. Alternative names for the “true” or Rhine Riesling are Weisser Riesling and Johannisberger.
The Riesling grape is grown in North and South America with varying degrees of success. Thanks to the climate in Canada
, winemakers there make excellent wines, including the famed Canadian ice wine.