Riesling, one of the oldest and finest white wines in the world, is both adored and also misunderstood by many wine drinkers. It is one of the most versatile grape varieties producing wines that can be sweet or bone dry but notable for its high acidity. When tasting any style of Riesling the wine should be well balanced.
According to the British wine writer Stuart Piggot, the first documentary evidence of Riesling appears in 1435 and links Kloster Eberbach, a monastery in the Rheingau in Germany.
From Germany Riesling spread to the surrounding grape growing countries, which included Austria and France. More recently, Riesling reached the new world wine countries, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, United States andArgentina.
There is not one definitive style of Riesling. It is one of the most aromatic grape varieties. You will find primary fruit aromas of white fruits such as apples, pears, apricot, tropical aromas and honey or rose petals, also it can have a distinctive minerality. At the same time Riesling is often described as smelling like petrol, particularly in older wines. The style is strongly influenced by where the grapes are grown, local climate and soil conditions.
I mentioned above that it is a misunderstood grape variety. This is in part due to the German wine laws governing how wines are labelled in Germany. It is not easy to know what you are getting as it requires a bit of work to familiarise yourself with the differences between a Trocken, Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauselse.
Basically these terms refer to the ripeness of the grapes when they are harvested not just the sweetness of the wine. Kabinett grapes are picked early when the grapes have just ripened, Spatlese grapes are picked a little later when the grapes are riper with more nature sugar and Auslese even later.
The misunderstanding comes when consumers think that the hierarchy of names always means better quality, which is not necessarily the case.
Alsace in France is also famous for its Rieslings. The late harvest sweet wines will say ‘Vendage Tardive’ on the label. In fact Trimbach produce one of the most sought after and famous Rieslings, ‘Clos Ste. Hune’.
New World Rieslings from Australia, New Zealand, USA tend to drier in style with pronounced ripe fruit aromas and flavours. The Clare Valley in South Australia and Western Australia are producing world class Rieslings.
Washington State in the USA also has a good reputation. Not forgetting Marlborough in New Zealand where the Rieslings can be outstanding.
Riesling pairs well with all food types, but where it really excels is with spicy food making a great combination. Something about the spicy food and the acidic semi-sweet Riesling works really well.
Rieslings that I have tried recently and enjoyed:
Dr. von Bassermann Jordan Forster Riesling Trocken, 2010 Pfalz
Howard Park ‘Madfish Riesling’, Western Australia, which you can find in TheWinePlace.es
SELBACH-OSTER ZELTINGER HIMMELREICH AUSLESE, Mosel 2006,
Humberto Canales ‘Old Vines’ Riesling, Patagonia, Argentina