Oh, Riesling, you’ve gotten a bad rep. You’re misunderstood and solely thought of as a cheap, sweet wine that you can find anywhere. Well, we are here to set the record straight. Let us re-introduce you to the fruity, aromatic, and vibrant wine that is Riesling.
Where It Came From
Riesling is believed to have originated in Germany, in regions near the Rhine River. Documented as early as the 15th century, Riesling is now Germany’s most planted wine grape. The fruit is also grown in most of the world top-wine producing countries, such as Austria, France, Australia and the United States.
The True Taste of Riesling
There is no true, classic style of Riesling, since the wine made differs so much based on the regions it is grown. In the cooler climates of many German wine regions, Riesling wines tend to have notes of apple and tree fruit. There are also noticeable levels of acidity, sometimes balanced with residual sugar. Late-ripening varieties grown in warmer climates can develop more citrus and peach notes. Australian Riesling is known for a distinct lime note that tends to come out in wines from South Australia. Because of Riesling’s naturally high acidity and pronounced fruit flavors, wines made from this grape have great aging potential. Aged Riesling often develops smokey, honey notes, and aged German Rieslings often have a ‘petrol’ character.
Overall, the uniting characteristic of all Riesling wines, no matter the region, is the acidity of the grape. From there, Riesling has the ability to be light, full, dry, sweet, soft, or powerful. The beauty of Riesling is that there is a style of the wine for every palate.
- Kabinett: Grapes picked during normal harvest. Makes a light bodied, low alcohol wine that’s normally dry or off-dry
- Spatlese: Means “late harvest.” Fully ripe grapes bring with more fruit intensity and a fuller body. Can be dry, or off-dry with a subtle sweetness that is often offset by the sharp acidity.
- Auslese: Means “select harvest.” Made in the best years from carefully chosen, fully ripe grapes. These wines are lush and fairly sweet.
- Beerenauslese: Means “Berry selected harvest.” Made from very ripe hand-harvested grapes affected by noble rot which is a fungus considered a delicacy that grows on certain varieties, and only in great vintages. Very sweet.
- Eiswein: Means “ice wine.” Made from frozen grapes. They are crushed, and the ice separated from the juice, resulting in a very sweet, highly acidic dessert wine.
- Trockenbeerenauslese: The richest, sweetest, most expensive of all German wines. Only made in the best years.
What Food Pairs Well with Riesling
Because of the naturally high acidity in Riesling, it makes it one of the most versatile white wines around. It can pair with most any dish; light and rich, tart and sweet. Obviously, different styles pair better with different kinds of food. Drier Riesling styles pair well with fresh fish or salty, fried food, as the acidity easily cuts through the food. Sweeter styles fit well with fruit-based desserts. Off-dry Rieslings are a nice partner for spicy food as well.