Here’s what you ought to know about riesling


Riesling is making a comeback! At least, you’d think it was given how often the stories in magazines and papers run that line. While riesling is more popular today than it was ten years ago, it’s got a long way to go before it knocks chardy and sauvignon blanc off their perch as the top white wines.

That doesn’t mean it’s not good (the customer isn’t always right, right?), so here’s a few things to know about this grape.

What is riesling?
Riesling — or rizza as it’s affectionately known — is a grape that makes white wine. It’s best grown in cold climates, and receives attention from wine lovers for its pure, delicate flavours. It is an aromatic, high acid grape, giving the wines made from it vibrancy.

Where it’s grown
The grape is from Germany, and the German wine region of Mosel has been described as Riesling’s “spiritual home” by wine writer Jancis Robinson. In Mosel, the region’s cold climate and steep vineyards make for light, fine, and delicate rieslings with a great concentration of flavour. There’s also great wines coming from the Rheingau and Pfalz regions in Germany.


Riesling also grows well in Austria’s Wachau Valley, making wines with a fuller body than those from the Mosel.
Australia also produces some world class rieslings: the Eden and Clare Valleys in South Australia are the best known regions for Aussie rizza, with the Clare

Valley’s Polish Hill producing particularly outstanding rieslings — the Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, made by Jeff Grosset, is probably Australia’s most sought after riesling. Rieslings from Eden and Clare are often characterised by a juicy, limey acidity. The distinctly different character the grape expresses in each climate it is grown is why it hailed as giving a pure expression of a wine’s terroir — its sense of place.

Styles of riesling
The riesling grape can make a stunning array of wines: sparkling, dry and off-dry, to sweet and noble rot styles. Don’t be alarmed by rieslings which are off-dry or sweeter — the grape’s high acidity will often remain, so you get these beautifully sweet, zesty and juicy wines. Great German rieslings do this well.

Some German Riesling Terms
You really need to drink German riesling. Some of them can be bloody expensive, but they’re pretty much the best drink in the world. Ever.
Trocken means dry. Halbtrocken means what it sounds like — half dry.

Prädikatswein is the highest level classification for quality german wine, and sets out levels of ripeness for the different styles. That is, the riper the grape, the more sugars in there and the greater the fruity flavours. Some common styles are Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese and Beerenauslese. Kabinett is the first level of ripeness, and results in dry wines.

Spätlese wines are likely to be sweeter, from riper grapes than in the Kabinett classification. The tricky part is, sometimes these wines are made in a dry style. The alcohol percentage is a neat guide to the sweetness — the lower the alcohol, the more likely it is there is leftover sugar from fermentation.
Auslese is again riper than Spätlese. These are richer wines, sweeter — but still with that signature bead of acidty running through them.

It’s that great acidity the helps these delicate wines live for decades. Sometimes you’ll find that good riesling develops a petrol note to it as it ages, which some people like, but others expecting to find big fruity flavour don’t. As riesling ages, expect honeyed, elderflower like characters to develop, as well as a note of kerosene or petrol. It’s pretty damn good stuff.

Rizza with food
Because riesling grows in cold climates and has a naturally high acidity, these wines tend to be lower in alcohol than, say, big chardonnay. They range from between 8% ABV for the sweeter styles to around 12 or 13% at the top end. That means that they tend to be more suitable for fiery, spicy cuisine than their higher alcohol counterparts, but your best to go with rizza at the lower end of the alcohol spectrum. Hot spices only serve to heighten the alcoholic heat of a wine.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.