Riesling is internationally recognised as one of the most delicious wines in the world. Riesling is an outstanding wine in both dry and dessert varieties, and competes for popularity with Chardonnay. In the past, Riesling wine was associated with cheaper mediocre wine brands; however it has recently been rebranded and has regained its rightful place in the wine collections of connoisseurs.
With vineyards stretching along the Rhine and the Mosel, Riesling is commonly known as the gem of German wines, being the leading variety of grape grown in Germany in an area covering 20,000 hectares/50,000 acres. In Austria, vineyards stretch over an area of 1,700 hectares/4,200 acres. The best Austrian Riesling wines are made along the Danube, in Wachau valley and Kamptal region, and carry flavourful mineral notes.
In France, Riesling is mainly harvested in the Alsace region. Dry, full-bodied, fresh Riesling wines are produced in Alsace. This grape variety is also used in Italy (Umbria, Alto-Adige), the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Riesling is considered to be particularly “terroir-expressive”, this means that the flavour of the wine depends largely on the place of origin. However on the whole, it is agreed Riesling wines of any origin are flavourful and elegant.
Using Riesling, a producer can make an incredibly delicate and viable wine, with a great ageing potential. Depending on the grapes’ origin and sugar level, sufficiently matured Riesling wines have strong aromas with flowery, mineral, honey and lime notes. Riesling wines can be excellently paired with white fish and meat. Sweet Riesling wines in turn would be a great complement to the various sweets and desserts.
What are the ideal conditions for producing this wine? More moderate climates certainly favour a slow and gradual ripening of the grape. Less fertile soils reduce the yield, but at the same time allow every grape cluster to accumulate the richest bouquet. In Germany both dry and sweet Riesling wines are produced. The famous Spatlese is made from the ripest grapes on the vine. Such marvellous dessert wines as Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese are produced from berries infected with Botrytis cinerea fungus (a process also known as ‘noble rot’), which adds the wines’ incredibly rich flavour and natural sweetness.