Riesling    

Jancis Robinson, MW: "the world’s greatest white grape" ?

Origins

Unquestionably German: documented in the 15th C

Characteristics   

  • Very hardy; can resist  -20°C
  • High acidity, even when sugar levels are high…but low in alcohol
  • Reflects its terroir
  • Highly aromatic: flowers, honey and spice
  • High yielding, even up to 100 hectolitres per hectare (due to breeding improvements since late 19thC)
  • Ripens late in Germany, but resistant to botrytis
  • Great ageing ability, certainly 10, up to100+ years. As Riesling ages a scent of petrol becomes apparent;and it can appear less sweet
  • Beware similar names of unrelated grapes, e.g. Eastern Europe’s Welschriesling, or South Africa’s Cape Riesling        

Vinification/ Maturation       

  • Very simple, stainless steel tank or very large old wooden vats. No new oak anywhere

Homeland       

Germany

  • In particular along the river systems: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau and Nahe
  • Planted on precipitous slopes, usually south or south-west facing, up to 200m above river level. Slate soils help ripening
  • Also Pfalz, Franken, Wurttemburg etc.
  • Order of ripeness (and therefore usually, but not always, sweetness): Qba (Quality wine from specific region); Kabinett; Spatlese; Auslese; Beerenauslese (BA); Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)
  • Also: Eiswein (literally ice wine), made from picking frozen grapes in December

Also to be found in   

  • Alsace: wines tend to be fuller bodied, with higher alcohol, and dry or off-dry
  • N.E. Italy
  • Austria: v. small production, dry wines on Alsace lines, often high in alcohol
  • California and Oregon: tend to be dry but can be aromatic and successful
  • Australia: Brought to Oz. by Silesian settlers in Barossa Valley, South Australia. Grown in cooler zones, e.g. Clare and Eden Valleys, Adelaide  Hills, can be dry, limey and excellent
  • New Zealand: usually South Island. Often scented and pretty
  • Chile.  Early days
  • South Africa: Known as Weisser Riesling. A sideshow
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