Riesling was the most grown variety in Germany with 20.8%
and 21,197 hectares (52,380 acres), and in the
French region of Alsace with 21.9% and 3,350 hectares
(8,300 acres). There are also significant
plantings of Riesling in Austria, Luxembourg, northern Italy,
Australia, New Zealand, Finger Lakes, USA, Canada, South
Africa, China and Ukraine. In the countries where it is
cultivated, Riesling is most commonly grown in colder regions
has a long history, and there are several written references
to the variety dating from the 15th century, although with
The earliest of these references dates from March 13, 1435,
when the storage inventory of the high noble Count John
IV. of Katzenelnbogen in RÃ¼sselsheim (a small principality
on the Rhine, close to today's Rheingau) lists "22 Ã
umb seczreben RieÃlingen in die wingarten" ("22 shillings
for Riesling vine cuttings for the vineyard"). The spelling
RieÃlingen is repeated in many other documents of
the time. The modern spelling Riesling was first
documented in 1552 when it was mentioned in Hieronymus Bock's
of Kintzheim in Alsace from 1348 contains the text zu
dem Russelinge, but it is not certain that this reference
is to the grape variety.
However, in 1477, Riesling was documented in Alsace under
the spelling Rissling.
In Wachau in Austria, there is a small stream and a small
vineyard both called Ritzling, which are claimed
locally to have given Riesling its name. However, there
seem to be no documentary evidence to back this up, so this
claim is not widely believed to be correct.
Riesling was sometimes claimed to have originated from wild
vines of the Rhine region, without much support to back
up that claim. More recently, DNA fingerprinting by Ferdinand
Regner indicated that one parent of Riesling is Gouais Blanc,
known to the Germans as WeiÃer Heunisch, a variety
that, while rare today, was widely grown by the French and
German peasantry of the Middle Ages. The other parent is
a cross between a wild vine and Traminer. It is presumed
that the Riesling was born somewhere in the valley of the
Rhine, since both Heunisch and Traminer have a long documented
history in Germany, but with parents from either side of
the Adriatic the cross could have happened anywhere on the
also been suggested, but not proved, that the red-skinned
version of Riesling is the forerunner of the common, "white"
Most likely, the genetic differences between white and red
Riesling are minuscule, as is the case for the difference
between Pinot noir and Pinot gris.
wines are often consumed when young, when they make a fruity
and aromatic wine which may have aromas of green or other
apples, grapefruit, peach, gooseberry, honey, rose blossom
or cut green grass, and usually a crisp taste due to the
However, Riesling's naturally high acidity and range of
flavours make it suitable for extended aging. International
wine expert Michael Broadbent rates aged German Rieslings,
some hundreds of years old, extremely highly. Sweet Riesling
wines, such as German Trockenbeerenauslese are especially
suited for cellaring since the high sugar content provides
for additional preservation. However, high quality dry or
off-dry Riesling wine is also known to have not just survived
but also been enjoyable at an age exceeding 100 years.
townhall of Bremen, Germany, stores various German wines,
including Riesling based wines, in barrel back to the 1653
common aging periods for Riesling wines would be 5-15 years
for dry, 10-20 years for semi-sweet and 10-30+ for sweet
notes in aged Riesling wines
time, Riesling wines tend to acquire a petrol note which is
sometimes described with associations to kerosene, lubricant
or rubber. While an integral part of the aroma profile of
mature Riesling and sought after by many experienced drinkers,
it may be off-putting to those unaccustomed to it, and those
who primarily seek young and fruity aromas in their wine.
The negative attitude to aromas of mature Riesling, and
the preference for young wines of this variety, seem more
common in Germany than in Alsace or on the export market,
and some German producers, especially the volume-oriented
ones, have even gone so far as to consider the petrol notes
a defect which they try to avoid. In that vein, the German
Wine Institute has gone so far as to omit the mentioning
of "petrol" as a possible aroma on their German-language
Wine Aroma Wheel, which is supposed to be specially adapted
to German wines, and despite the fact that professor Ann
C. Noble had included petrol in her original version of
petrol note is considered to be caused by the compound 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene
which during the aging process is created from carotenoid
precursors by acid hydrolysis. The initial concentration
of precursors in the wine determines the wine's potential
to develop TDN and petrol notes over time. From what is
known of the production of carotenoids in grapes, factors
that are likely to increase the TDN potential are:
grapes, i.e., low yields and late harvest
stress, which is most likely in regions which do not practice
irrigation, and there primarily in certain dry vineyard
sites in hot and dry years
factors are usually also considered to contribute to high
quality Riesling wines, so the petrol note is in fact more
likely to develop in top wines than in simpler wines made
from high-yielding vineyards, especially those from the
New World, where irrigation is common.
most expensive wines made from Riesling are late harvest
dessert wines, produced by letting the grapes hang on the
vines well past normal picking time. Through evaporation
caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea ("noble rot")
or by freezing, as in the case of ice wine (in German, Eiswein),
water is removed and the resulting wine offers richer layers
on the palate. These concentrated wines have more sugar
(in extreme cases hundreds of grams per litre), more acid
(to give balance to all the sugar), more flavour, and more
complexity. These elements combine to make wines which are
amongst the most long lived of all white wines. The beneficial
use of "noble rot" was discovered in the late 18th century
at Schloss Johannisberg. Permission from the Abbey of Fulda
(which owned the vineyard) to start picking the grapes arrived
too late and the grapes had begun to rot; yet it turned
out that the wine made from them was still of excellent
vines on a steep, south facing slope in the Mosel region.
is considered one of the grape varieties that best expresses
the terroir of the place where it is grown.
It is particularly well suited for slate and sandy clay
in German soil
today Riesling is Germanys leading grape variety, known
for its characteristic transparencyin flavour and presentation
of terroir, and its balance
between fruit and mineral flavours. In Germany, Riesling
normally ripens between late September and late November,
and late harvest Riesling can be picked as late as January.
common characteristics of German Riesling are that they
are rarely blended with other varietals, hardly ever exposed
to commercial yeast and usually
never exposed to oak flavour (despite some vintners fermenting
in "neutral" oak barrels). To this last item there is an
exception with some vinters in the wine regionsof Palatinate
(Pfalz) and Baden experimenting with new oak aging. The
warmer temperatures in those regions produce heavier wines
with a higher alcohol content that can better contend with
the new oak.
While clearer in individual flavours when it is young, a
German Riesling will harmonize more as it ages, particularly
around ten years of age.
sugar levels at time of harvest are an important consideration
in the wine's production with prÃ¤dikat levels measuring
the sweetness of the wine. Equally important to winegrowers
is the balance of acidity between the green tasting malic
acid and the more citrus tasting tartaric acid. In cool
years, some growers will wait until November to harvest
in hopes of having a higher level of ripeness and subsequent
technology in wineries could stabilize temperatures, the
low temperatures in winter of the northern German regions
would halt fermentation and leave the resulting wines with
natural sugars and a low alcohol content. According to local
tradition, in the Mosel region the wine would then be bottled
in tall, tapered, and green hock bottles. Similar bottles,
although brown, are used for Riesling produced in the Rhine
is also the preferred grape in production of Deutscher Sekt,
German sparkling wine.
wines from Germany cover a vast array of tastes from sweet
to off-dry halbtrocken to dry trocken. Late
harvest Rieslings can ripen to become very sweet dessert
wines of the beerenauslese (BA) and trockenbeerenauslese
is on record as being planted in the Alsace region by 1477
when its quality was praised by the Duke of Lorraine. Today over
a fifth of Alsace's vineyards are covered with Riesling
vines, mostly in the Haut-Rhin district, with the wine produced
here being very different from neighboring German Riesling.
This is partly from difference in the soil with the clay
Alsatian soil being more dominately calcareous than the
slate composition of Rheingau. The other differences come
in wine making styles, with the Alsatian preferring more
French-oriented methods that produce wines of higher alcohol
content (normally around 12%) and more roundness due to
longer time spent in the steel tanks. Alsace Riesling are
never aged in oak barrels. In contrast to German wine laws,
Alsatian rieslings can be chaptalized, a process in which
the alcoholic content is increased through the addition
of sugar to the must.
to other Alsatian wines, Rieslings in this area are usually
not meant to be drunk young, but many are still best in
the first years. Rieslings produced here tend to be mostly
very dry with a cleansing acidity. They are thick bodied
wines that coat the palate. These wines age exceptionally
well with a quality vintage ageing up to 20 years. This
is beneficial since the flavours in an Alsace wine will
often open up after three years, developing softer and fruitier
Riesling is very suitable for the late harvest Vendange
Tardive and the botrytize SElection de Grains Nobles,
with good acidity keeping up the sweetness of the wine.
to Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, Riesling is one of the acceptable varieties
whose planting is allowed in Alsace's grand cru sites.
and New Zealand
William Macarthur planted Riesling vines near Penrith in
New South Wales.
Riesling was the most planted white grape in Australia until
the early 1990s when Chardonnay greatly increased in popularity.
Riesling still flourishes in the Clare Valley, in particular
the areas of Watervale and around the Polish Hill River,
and the cooler Eden Valley and High Eden regions. Riesling
is also being grown with increasing popularity in the Western
Australian regions Albany, Frankland River and Porongorup.
The warmer Australian climate produces thicker skinned grapes,
sometimes seven times the thickness of German grown grape.
The grapes ripening in free drain soil composed of red soil
over limestone and shale, producing a lean wine that as
it matures produces toasty, honeycomb and lime aromas and
flavours. It is common for Australian Rieslings to be fermented
at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks with no oxidation
of the wine and followed by earlier bottling.
Rieslings are noted for their oily texture and citrus fruit
flavours in their youth and a smooth balance of freshness
and acid as they age. The botrytized Rieslings have immense
levels of flavour concentrations that have been favorably
compared to lemon marmalade.
was first planted in New Zealand in the 1970s and has flourished
in the relatively cool climate of the Marlborough area and
for late harvests in the Nelson region. In comparison to
Australian Riesling, New Zealand produces lighter and more
delicate wines that range from sweet to dry.Home of cool
climate wines, Central Otago, has recently emerged as another
area producing terroir driven wines.
is the second leading white grape varietal after the indigenous
Austrian Riesling is generally thick bodied, coating the
palate and producing a strong clarity of flavour coupled
with a mouthwatering aroma. A particular Austrian Riesling
trademark is a long finish that includes hints of white
pepper. It flourishes in the cool climate and free-draining
granite and mica soil of the Wachau region where Austrian
wine laws allow for irrigation. With levels normally around
13% it has a relatively high alcohol content for Riesling
and is generally at its peak after 5 years.
Austrian Riesling is not known for its sweetness and is
mostly dry with very few grapes affected by botrytis.
late nineteenth century German immigrants brought with them
Riesling vines, named Johannisberg Riesling to qualify them
as legitimate German Riesling. New York, particularly in
the Finger Lakes region, was one of the earliest U.S. producers
of Riesling. Plantings started to appear in California by
1857 and followed in Washington State in 1871.
York Riesling generally has a characteristic effervescent
light body with a similarly light, mellow flavour. The wine
can be dynamic though rarely robust, and ranges from dry
to sweet. New York is also a notable producer of Riesling
based Ice Wine, although a large majority of New York Ice
Wine is made from Vidal Blanc and Vignoles.
Riesling lags far behind Chardonnay in popularity and is
not as commonly planted. A notable exception is the growing
development of high quality Late Harvest dessert wines.
So far, the Late Harvest wines most successfully produced
are in the Anderson and Alexander Valleys where the weather
is more likely to encourage the needed botrytis to develop.
The Riesling that does come out of California tends to be
softer, fuller, and having more diverse flavours than a
"typical" German Riesling.
Pacific Northwest there is a stark contrast in Riesling
production. The grape is currently on the rise in Washington
State but on the decline in neighboring Oregon. Riesling
from this area ranges from dry to sweet, and has a crisp
lightness that bodes well for easy drinking. Often there
will be an easily detectable peach and mineral complex.
Some Washington State winemakers, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle,
are adapting German-style Riesling production methods, and
even partnering with well-known German vintners like Dr.
Ernest Loosen to create specialty wines such as the Eroica
Riesling. With annual productions of over 600,000 cases
a year, Chateau Ste. Michelle is the worldwide leader in
the production of Riesling wines by volume. In 2007 Pacific
Rim Winemakers, another Pacific Northwest winery and owned
by Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, has built the first wine
facility in Red Mountain AVA dedicated completely to Riesling
Riesling is commonly used for Icewine, where the wine is
noted for its breadth and complexity. Niagara
is a major producer of ice wine in general, putting it neck-and-neck
with Germany. Late Harvest wines and some sparkling wines
are produced with Riesling in Niagara but it is table wines
from dry to off-dry that hold the largest share of production.
The climate of the region is typically quite warm in the
summertime which adds a layer of richness in the wines.
It is interesting that the founder of St. Urbanshoff in
the Mosel, Herman Weiss, was an early pioneer in Niagara's
modern viticulture, selling his strain of Mosel clone Riesling
to many producers in west Niagara (these vines are well
over 20 years old now). This clone and Niagara's summer
heat make for uniquely bright wines and often show up in
interesting dry styled versions. Many producers and wine
critics will argue that Niagara's best offerings come from
the Niagara Escarpment region which encompasses the Short
Hills Bench, 20 Mile Bench and Beamsville Bench.
Columbia, Riesling is commonly grown for use in Icewine,
table wine, and sekt style sparkling wines, a notable example
of which is Cipes Brut.
is also widely grown in South Africa, Chile and Central
Europe, particularly Romania and Moldova.
making, the delicate nature of the Riesling grape requires
special handling during harvesting to avoid crushing or
bruising the skin. Without this care, the broken skins could
leak tannin into the juice, giving a markedly coarse taste
and throwing off balance the Rieslingâs range of flavours
that is best at its âfreshestâ states, the grapes and
juice may be chilled often throughout the vinification process.
Once, right after picking to preserve the grapes' more delicate
flavours. Second, after it has been processed through a
bladder press and right before fermentation. During fermentation,
the wine is cooled in temperature controlled stainless steel
fermentation tanks kept between 10 and 18 Â°C (50 and
64 Â°F). This differs from red wines that normally
ferment at 24 to 29 Â°C (75 to 84 Â°F)
Chardonnay, most Riesling do not undergo malolactic
fermentation. This helps preserve the tart, acidic characteristic
of the wine that gives Riesling its thirst-quenching quality.
(Producers of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio often avoid malolactic fermentation for
the same reason.) Riesling is often put through a process
of cold stabilization, where the wine is stored just above
its freezing point. The wine is kept at this temperature
until much of the tartaric acid has crystallized and precipitated
out of the wine. This helps prevent crystallization of the
acid (often called "wine diamonds") in the bottle.
After this, the wine is normally filtered again to remove
any remaining yeast or impurities.
the two main components in growing Riesling grapes are to
keep it "Long & Low" meaning that the ideal situation
for Riesling is a climate that allows for a long, slow ripening
and proper pruning to keep the yield low and the flavour
is a versatile wine for pairing with food, because of its
balance of sugar and acidity. It can be paired with white
fish or pork, and is one of the few wines that can stand
up to the stronger flavours and spices of Thai and Chinese
cuisine. A Riesling's
typical aromas are of flowers, tropical fruits, and mineral
stone (such as slate or quartz), although, with time, the
wine acquires a petrol note as mentioned above.
is almost never fermented or aged in new oak (although large
old oak barrels are often used to store and stabilize Riesling
based wines in Germany and Alsace).
This means that Riesling tends to be lighter weight and
therefore suitable to a wider range of foods. The sharp
acidity/sweetness in Rieslings can serve as a good balance
to foods that have a high salt content. In Germany, cabbage
is sometimes cooked with riesling to reduce the vegetable's
other white wines, dry Riesling is generally served at a
cool 11 Â°C (52 Â°F). Sweeter Rieslings are often
exists a large number of commercial clones of Riesling,
with slightly different properties. In Germany, approximately
60 clones are allowed, and the most famous of these have
been propagated from vines in the vineyards of Schloss Johannisberg.
Most other countries have sourced their Riesling clones
directly from Germany, but they are sometimes propagated
under different designations.