All about Riesling
Riesling is a regal, versatile grape that is used to make food-friendly white wines. These wines are valued and desired for their taste and style range. Perhaps more so than any other noble grape, Riesling skillfully expresses the distinct character of the soil and climate of its growing region. With the transparency of its terroir, Riesling acts as a display of the land. These wines vibrantly speak and show their soil. Our German wine specialist Jim Greeley admires Rieslings as, “...wines with a sense of place; wines that reflect where they come from.” Stylistically, Riesling gives wine drinkers something exclusive and unexpected in every glass as well as the ability to pair with an array of traditional and international cuisines. Drinking a glass of Riesling is an experience – giving wine enthusiasts the ability to smell and taste the world through each bottle. Highly regarded, yet deserving of more attention, Riesling is, simply stated, a fantastic wine.
Much more complex than a beginning wine drinker’s sweet white, Riesling provides a range of climate-distinct flavors and striking aromas. Riesling is not often blended with other grapes nor influenced by barrel aging in new oak. Traditionally, Riesling grapes are vinified into sweeter, lower alcohol wines, creating a desired balance to the trademark acidity. However, dry Rieslings are also gaining popularity and broadening the diversity of the varietal. The first thing you may notice in a glass of Riesling, with aroma and taste, is ripe orchard fruits like apple, peach, or pear. Dry Riesling can also display apple notes, often with subtle quince or lemony citrus on the palate. Riesling is also a great wine to put into the cellar – as it ages the fruit flavors gain complexity; they can mellow and mature into tastes of honeycomb, crème brulee and dried fruits. Other secondary aromas can include notes of wet stones, slate, petrol as well as floral aspects like citrus blossom or jasmine. In Germany, six traditional wine terms help define certain styles of Riesling by grape ripeness at harvest. Each shows unique character yet remain connected through their signature acidity. Imagine six siblings - each will grow, mature and look different; however, common traits tether them: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein are these classic siblings.
Wine designated as Kabinett is made from the first bunches selected at harvest and is typically made in an off-dry style. It is a light wine that leads with minerality and bright fruit flavors. Spätlese, meaning “late selected,” is a medium-bodied wine made from late harvest grapes; which presents as a richer style in comparison to Kabinett. “Selected Harvest” or Auslese, is another late harvest term where grapes are handpicked from overripe bunches. Once fermented, this style becomes intensely sweet with a medium to full body. Beerenauslese is a dessert wine with high residual sugar, making them great for aging. Similar to Auslese, Beerneauslese is made from late-season, individually picked grapes that are affected by botrytis, commonly known as “noble rot.” This beneficial fungus withers the grape into a raisin-like berry, deeply concentrating the natural sugars. The resulting style is extremely sweet, viscous and can often be pricey. Trockenbeerenauslese literally means "dry berry selected.” These grapes are harvested in similar fashion to Beerenauslese to make one of the world's most celebrated dessert wines. It can take a grape harvester an entire day to collect enough grapes to create one bottle of this style. Eiswein or Ice Wine, is one of the most labor-intensive wines to harvest and produce. To create this unique style, grapes at the Beerenauslese ripeness level are left to freeze naturally on the vine. The grapes are harvested while frozen. After a long, slow fermentation, the extra care and labor results a beautiful dessert wine with decadent fruit flavors.
Riesling is often found in its traditional tall and tapered bottle. This pale straw to intensely golden yellow wine is best served chilled in a white wine glass.
Ready to taste? Browse our Riesling labels on sale.
Rieslings are undoubtedly some of the most celebrated white wines. And yet, the grape can be temperamental to grow and cultivate. The demand for special care and cool climates tests the expertise of even the most experienced winemaker. It is the most widely planted grape in Germany with the Rhine region being recognized as the grape's indigenous home. Other classic German appellations with a flair for producing outstanding Riesling include the Mosel, Rheingau, Rheinhessen and the Pfalz. Outside of its native home, many celebrated Rieslings are also made in Austria, Australia and the Alsace region of France. In North America New York, California, Washington State and Canada also make noteworthy examples of Riesling.
Riesling is an ultimate food-pairing wine thanks to its bright flavors and versatility. Before pairing, develop a tasting menu featuring fats, salt and intense flavors which will stand toe-to-toe with the wine's zippy acidity. Plan for soy sauce-based dishes or a mild Thai curry. Asian dishes are always a smart pair including sushi - with pickled ginger to compliment the wine. With dry Rieslings, consider delicate seafood like shrimp or cold-water fish, either plain or finished with a rich, butter-based sauce. Dry Rieslings also pair brilliantly with young cheddar cheese, havarti or monterey jack. Strongly flavored, salt-forward cheeses like Roquefort blue, feta, or an aged gouda pair wonderfully with a sweet Riesling. Jim Greeley adds, “Dessert styles with aged muenster cheese or plain cheesecake...” are a dynamite match as well.
If you already find yourself rooting for Riesling and are ready to try something outside of the varietal, Jim Greeley would steer you towards, “…an unoaked dry white wine with similar, bright textures: Albariño from Spain, Assyrtiko from Greece, dry Chenin Blanc from South Africa, Torrontés from Argentina or a Soave from Italy. For an alternative semi-sweet wine experience, try a Vouray from France.”
From Our Customers
“I always grab a Riesling for a pool day - I love that I can sip a bottle throughout the day enjoying fresh flavors, but it isn't too boozy. It really is an easy-drinking wine and whatever food I put poolside for the day, it always works.” - Rachel Muse, ABC customer