Origin: Originating in Germany’s Rhineland in 1435, when a German count bought six vines making it the first documented varietal sale
Styles: Dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines
- Colour: Bright, pale yellow when young or gold when aged
- Sweetness: Wide range from bone dry to very sweet
- Acidity: High
- Body: Light
- Alcohol: Low/Medium
- Ageing: From 5 to 30 depending on style, vintage and producer
There is almost nothing better than sipping a cold glass of delicious Riesling on a hot summer day. No matter what the style, Riesling is the ideal wine to enjoy throughout the spring and summer months.
Many connoisseurs consider Riesling to be the world’s finest grape because of its versatility, its food-friendliness and its ability to age gracefully. When young, these wines are aromatic, refreshing, and known for their intense fruit and floral aromas. They are crisp and juicy, with aromas of lemon, apricot, pear, honey-crisp apple, and nectarine. With age Riesling becomes fuller and richer and the fruit forward notes develop into notes of honey, petrol, mineral and smoke.
This grape is extremely versatile; making excellent dessert and off-dry styles that we have come know and love in North America, however, the majority of Riesling produced in Germany and France are dry and similar in body and style to a light, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. The consistent element through all styles of Riesling is its high acidity, making your mouth water as much as a glass of lemonade would.
The different styles of Riesling depend on several factors such as the vineyards farming methods, soil varieties, climate, and winemaking techniques. For example, the grapes to make Spätlese, meaning late harvest in German, are picked at least seven days after the normal harvest, so they are riper and have higher sugar content than the grapes used to make a dry Riesling. No other grape variety in the world provides such a stylistic range.
Where does Riesling come from?
While the origin of Riesling is a bit of a mystery (like most varietals), many point to Germany as the country of origin. The earliest documentation of the German production of Riesling dates back to 1435. The region known as the birthplace is along the Rhein River, in the Rheinhessen wine region.
Where does Riesling Grow?
The delicate nature and slower growing pace compared to Chardonnay makes Riesling suited to grow in cooler climates and strives in places such as Germany and France. However, over time, Riesling has adapted to grow successfully in warmer climates, such as Australia, where sometimes the grape skins are seven times the thickness of German grown grape.
In addition to being known as the place of Rieslings origin, Germany is known for its production of some of the world’s best Riesling. In 2006, Riesling was the most grown variety Germany producing 20.8% of the country’s wine.
Alsace Riesling production – 8,319 acres
South of Germany, along the Rhine River is Alsace also well known for its Riesling production. Rieslings from this region generally come with higher alcohol content and is drier than their northern counterparts.
Riesling production in the United States ranks third in worldwide. Riesling was considerably popular in the Californian Valley before Chardonnay rose to prominence. However, Washington State, the Finger Lakes, Oregon, Idaho’s Snake River Valley, and Michigan have become major players in the production of Riesling.
Australia and New Zealand
Until the late 1980s’s, Riesling was the most widely planted white grape in Australia, before the consumer turned to Chardonnay and Shiraz. Australian Riesling is oily in texture with intense citrus, especially lime, flavours. In nearby New Zealand, Riesling tends to be lighter and more delicate, with peach, pear and lemon.
Ontario Riesling production – 1,859 acres
British Columbia Riesling production – 678 acres
Ontario and British Columbia have a terroir and climate that is well suited to grow Riesling, and, along with great dry versions, the grape is also used to make some of the world’s best icewine. Thirty Bench Winemakers, in Niagara’s Beamsville Bench, is possibly the best producer of Riesling in the country.
*Global production acreage numbers are according to 2005-2007 statistics.
When should Riesling be Enjoyed?
Though many enjoy Riesling at any time of the year due to its wide variety of styles, a cold glass of Riesling can be highly enjoyed on a hot summer’s day. To fully appreciate the crisp, fruity nature of Riesling, it is best served at “fridge cold” temperatures around 6°C. Drier, well-aged Rieslings can benefit from being a couple degrees warmer.
Lighter wines like Rieslings are wonderful choices for the Canadian summer. Read our previous blog “Best Food and Wine Combinations for the Cottage” for more refreshing summer wines that pair with great cottage dishes.
Riesling is a perfect food-friendly wine because it is high in acidity, has medium to low alcohol and light in body.
An off-dry or sweeter Riesling such as a Spätlese or Auslese that contains higher sugar content than a dry Riesling can pair beautifully with intense, spicier dishes because the sweetness helps balance out the heat of the spicy food. Classic Indian dishes such as butter chicken, channa or tikka masala, Asian dishes such as kung-pao chicken, spicy roast duck and Thai dishes such as khao soi or a spicy pad thai traditionally pair very well. A dry Riesling can pair nicely with foods that have “green” flavours, such as a lime, jalapeño and tomatillo salsa over grilled snapper or a mild green curry.
What Riesling Does The Small Winemakers Collection Offer?
From the Alsace wine region of France, we offer this premium Riesling from the small Mittnacht Klack farm.
This has a delicate aroma of green apple and lime with a hint of flint and ginger. The palate is slightly off-dry, light-medium bodied showing green apple and a lively spiciness. There is good acidity and a moderate finish.
The Small Winemakers Collection is a Toronto-based wine agent supplying wine to restaurants and private consumers across Ontario. The Small Winemakers Collection (SWC) mission is to offer high quality wine from small winemakers and family-owned wineries that make remarkable wine with a captivating story from around the world. SWC has been in operation for 25 years and the original founders still bring their passion and expertise for wine to the agency every day. They have traveled the world in search of great wine from small lot wineries.
Since our inception, product quality has been at the forefront of our collection. Discover the several varieties of the world’s most exclusive wines available through our online wine delivery service.