Riesling grapes have been grown in their homeland of Germany since the 1400s or possibly even earlier. This versatile grape can be made into a variety of white wines including:
Riesling grapes are very terroir-expressive. This means that the individual region where Riesling grapes are grown has a strong influence on the character of the wines produced.
Riesling wines have a long cellar life. Some Riesling wines have been reported to be enjoyable even after aging for over 100 years, and Rieslings are considered by many to be the best of all white wine grapes. Riesling grapes are sometimes called:
- Johannesberg Riesling
Germany is well known for Riesling grapes, which are the leading grape variety of that country. While Riesling grapes originated in Germany, many other regions of the world now also grow these grapes and produce Riesling wines. Some of the other places you can find major Riesling vineyards include:
- New Zealand
- United States.
Some popular producers of Riesling wines include:
- Blue Nun Riesling
- Johann Falkenburg Riesling
- Lowenstein Riesling.
Riesling Aroma and Flavor
Riesling wines are strong and distinctive with a fruity, floral aroma. They balance high levels of residual sugar because they naturally contain a great deal of Tartaric acid.
Here are some of the most prominent aroma and flavor elements of Riesling wines:
- floral elements such as rose, violet or woodruff
- mineral elements including flint, gunmetal and steel
- petroleum notes such as diesel, kerosene and terpene
- fruit flavors, including apple, apricot, peach and pear.
Riesling Wines and Petroleum Aroma
Petroleum notes are a unique characteristic of mature Riesling wines and have sometimes been a source of controversy.
While experienced wine drinkers often seek out Riesling wines with petroleum notes, those who are not accustomed to them may find the slight petroleum aroma unpleasant. Particularly in Germany, there is a strong negative feeling for mature Rieslings with these notes. Some German wine producers even consider petrol notes a defect.
The German Wine Institute has decided to omit petrol from the list of aromas on their Wine Aroma Wheel, even though it was included on the original version of the wheel. Factors likely to increase petroleum notes include:
- high acid content
- high sun exposure
- ripe grapes with late harvest
- water stress.
Some of the most expensive and highly valued Riesling wines come from grapes that have been picked past their prime and have actually begun to rot.
Discovered in the late 18th century, noble rot is produced by the fungus Botrytis cinerea. The fungus causes a great deal of water to evaporate from the grapes. The result is a wine with a richer flavor and more complex layers.
The evaporation effect can also be produced by freezing these hardy grapes. Wine from frozen grapes is called ice wine.
Enjoying Riesling Wine with Food
Riesling wines have an excellent balance of sugar and acidity. This means they can be enjoyed with strongly flavored cuisines such as Thai or Chinese food.