Curious Small Sips #18: Riesling

Much maligned and misunderstood, the powerful little white grape Riesling (pronounced Reece-ling according to Jancis Robinson if you are stickler for pronunciation) is one of Germany’s most important grape varieties. Highly adaptable, it can flourish in stony soil and subsist on little moisture but it is late-ripening so needs a little more sunlight than most. It is also found to great acclaim in Austria, Luxembourg, Alsace, Italy (particularly fine examples can be found in Alto-Adige) New Zealand (Nelson, Marlborough and Central Otago are producing great varietal examples) Australia (Clare and Eden Valleys) and in the United States, in Washington State and Oregon. It is also extraordinarily successful in Ontario where it makes fine and delicate Icewines (the Canadian version of German Eisweins) and in New York State’s Finger Lakes region.

The grape is not a natural partner to oak and its wine is, generally speaking, low in alcohol. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a wine that has incredible longevity however, and it possesses the capability to absorb the terroir of the regions in which it is grown in a way that is unparalleled in most other grape varieties. Riesling wine is notable for its distinctive aroma which is described as flowery, honeyed, steely and with powerful mineral nuances depending on its provenance. It has a natural racy tartness and with age, the naturally occurring chemical ‘TDN‘ can often impart kerosene like aromas to the bouquet.


Image: Inspecting sugar levels in riesling grapes, Balthasar Ress vineyards, Rheingau, Germany; © Balthasar Ress.

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