As a white grape varietal, Riesling is well-known by professionals and consumers in the food and wine industry. While still a fan favourite amongst sommeliers, its limited retail presence has caused this wine to slip under the radar of some. However, the question many ask about Riesling is: Does it age well?
Riesling can in fact be enjoyed both young or aged, depending on the style and structure of the wine. However, there are many considerations that must be kept in mind when choosing to age this wine. Below, we look at the characteristics of the Riesling grape and provide recommendations on how to store Riesling correctly during the ageing process.
What Are the Main Characteristics of Riesling?
Riesling is an aromatic grape varietal. Known for producing white wine that is floral and fruit-driven, this grape is grown in many reputable wine regions across the world, most notably Mosel Valley, Germany.
This white grape is often characterized by its moderate size, green skin, high acidity and light body. Notable tasting notes for this grape include citrus, stone fruit, rose blossom and petrol (when aged). Rieslings are also known for expressing their terroir and come in many styles. You can expect variations in terms of flavour, dryness, and sweetness.
For more information on the origins of this versatile grape, read our in-depth guide to Riesling wine.
Does the Riesling Grape Get Better With Age?
Many think ageing is only suitable for red wines. But, in fact, many white wines such as Rieslings can evolve beautify with age in bottle. In fact, in recent years, older German Rieslings have come to prominence among sommeliers although it is still somewhat of a secret to consumers of the mass wine market.
As part of aging, one consideration that is looked at is a wine’s structure. Wines that have a complex structure and high acid are known to develop with age. In the case of white wine, the Riesling grape falls into this category – therefore, making it a worthy wine to age.
As noted above, a young Riesling will be unequivocally fresh, vibrant and fruit-forward. However, the profile of an older Riesling is much more complex and interesting. Riesling gains balance and density with age. Prominent flavours such as toast, honey and petrol are known to develop, while the fresh fruit characteristics known in its younger state become more subtle.
Riesling is considered aged after five years and Riesling which is high in acid and sugar or both can sometimes be cellared for twenty years or longer. Having said that, cellaring a Riesling must be done with care – otherwise, it won’t improve with age.
Wine Storage Considerations: How to Store Riesling Correctly
How successfully a Riesling ages depends on three factors: the complexity of aromas, acidity levels and residual sugar. As the wine is so versatile and offers both dry, off-dry and sweet versions, you will need a storage method that is as multifaceted as the wine itself.
Wine storage principles such as humidity and temperature will play a role here as will location. When storing a dry Riesling for a short-term, aim to store it in a wine cellar or fridge at a temperature that stays at 55 degrees celsius; anything cooler the maturity process will shut down. If you are planning to age it for longer, consider storing it at the back of your cellar or fridge, so that it can mature fully and properly.
Although Rieslings with residual sugar can typically age better than dry Riesling, as sugar acts as a natural preservative, storing these wines is a little more complex. Sweet Rieslings require storage considerations with almost no fluctuation in temperature or humidity in order to fully mature. As these wines have the potential of aging for up to twenty years, having a dedicated wine cellar in your home is necessary to store these wines properly.
While more complex in terms of storing than other grape varietals, aged Riesling is a true delight meaning the payoff will be worth it.