Riesling is a hardy vine that is well-suited for cool-climate wine regions. It is perhaps most associated with the white wines of Germany, where it produces wines that range from dry to sweet.
On the vine, ripe Riesling grapes are deep golden yellow in color, and the resulting wine can range from pale yellow to richly golden in the glass. Riesling is most known for its sharp acidity, which lends ample structure and lift to the wine, even in the sweetest of offerings. This bold acidity contributes the ageability of these wines, some of which can last for decades.
Among Riesling’s many distinctive aromatic notes, the most unique is that of gasoline, or petrol. A minute amount of a hydrocarbon contributes to this unique aroma, and it is most common in aged Riesling. The grape is also known for its minerality, as well as for notes of stone fruits, like peaches and apricots, and white flowers.
Riesling in Germany
Riesling is, by origin, an Old-World variety, and nowhere is it more famous than in Germany, where the grape is almost never blended or exposed to oak. Germany grades its Riesling harvest by ripeness level within a hierarchy called the Prädikatswein. From less ripe to the ripest, the ranking is: kabinett, spätlese, auslese, beerenauslese, eiswein and trockenbeerenauslese. Trocken or Halbtrocken can be included on the label to denote wines that are finished dry or off dry.
Riesling can be found in all of Germany’s 13 wine-growing regions, however it is most prominent in the Mosel, Rheinhessen, Pfalz, Rheingau and Nahe regions.
Riesling in Alsace
Right across the border from Germany is Alsace, which is home to a French expression of Riesling. These wines tend to be slightly higher in alcohol than German counterparts and much drier, however there are Vendange Tardive (VT) and Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN) wines that are vinified sweet.
Riesling is well-regarded in Austria, however it is commonly overshadowed by the country’s main white grape, Grüner Veltliner. Riesling in Austria is typically dry in style and richer in feel than German bottlings.
While perhaps most known for rich, fruity Shiraz, Australia is home to a surprising array of wine grapes that perform well across its many wine regions. Riesling catches its stride in the Clare and Eden Valleys of South Australia. These wines are typically dry in style, with brisk flavors of lime, white flowers and stone.
In the United States, the grape performs well in Oregon, Washington, New York’s Finger Lakes region and Michigan. The grape is also common in Ontario, Canada, where it produces a range of dry to sweet wines.
Synonyms: Johannisberg Riesling, Rhine Riesling, Riesling Renano, Rheinriesling