10 Things You Need to Know About German Riesling

Get the lowdown on the versatile wine world darling.

It’s about that time to swap your go-to wine with a Riesling. It’s a deliciously diverse grape, so there’s a style for everyone’s palate.

Here’s the lowdown on this cool, crisp wine.

1.    First of all, it’s pronounced REE-sling.

2.    It’s a diverse variety. It grows in each of Germany’s 13 growing regions. It can thrive in different climatic conditions, from cold and cool to warm. Riesling ripens on many soils, including slate, mica schist, granite, fossil limestone, quartzite, rhyolite and sandstone.

3.    Germany’s Mosel region, famous for its crisp, citrus-centric Riesling, dedicates a whopping 60% of plantings to the variety.

4.    Riesling’s hallmark is its acidity. It’s what provides the structure and longevity that allows them to age so well.

5.    It has major range. Rieslings can be dry, off dry, semisweet or lusciously sweet (those made from botrytised or frozen grapes).

6.    Speaking of dry—some drinkers assume all Rieslings are sweet, but there are many bone dry options, too. These are especially interesting because they are perfectly balanced by high acid, which gives them great body.

7.    If you love dry Riesling, look for the word trocken on the label. This means “dry,” and the wines have alcohol levels of 11% and above. If you’re more into off-dry styles, look for the word feinherb on the label. This has some residual sugar and a dry finish. And if you love medium-sweet styles? Go for halbtrocken or lieblich, which have alcohol levels between 9–10.5%.

8.    Anything below 9% alcohol by volume tends to be is sweet. But remember, there’s still acid in these babies to keep the balance.

9.    Make sure to stop and smell the Riesling—its aroma spectrum is mind-blowing. The lightest Rieslings smell like a summer-night stroll through a jasmine and orange grove. Others are explosions of lemon and lime, pink and yellow grapefruit, orange and tangerine. Riper styles prompt visions of juicy peaches, yellow plums or apricots, with swirling clouds of mango and pineapple.

10.    Riesling gets better with age. So when ordering your next pour, choose a mature vintage. You’ll sniff honey, honeysuckle, candied peel and super-charged peach. The palate will feel like balm. Think I’m kidding? Order a 20-year-old.

Published on July 17, 2015
Topics: Germany, Riesling, Wine Basics
About the Author
Anne Krebiehl MW
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from Austria, Alsace and England

German-born but London-based, Anne Krebiehl MW is a freelance wine writer contributing to international wine publications. She also lectures, consults and translates and has helped to make wine in New Zealand, Germany and Italy. She adores acidity in wine and is thus perfectly suited to her Austria/Alsace/England beat. Her particular weaknesses are Pinot Noir, Riesling and traditional-method sparkling wines.

Email: akrebiehl@wineenthusiast.net.



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