Dry / Sweet: Dry (see note below if this is not stated on the bottle)
Age: Needs a few years of bottle age.
Riesling (REEZ-ling) is one of the world’s greatest – if not the greatest – white grape variety. It is slow to ripen and, as well as needing time on the vine, it also needs time in bottle to reveal its wonderful qualities. Like Chardonnay, it produces wines that reflect their terroir (ter-WAHR: the place where the vines are grown, including soil type and micro-climate) and so offers an additional range of mineral and earthy flavors, which express their location.
Riesling does not need or benefit from contact with oak, either during fermentation or maturity, and is therefore oak free. It has fruity and floral aromas, followed by green fruit flavors of apple, grape and pear, which can extend to more citrus and stone fruit flavors of lemon, lime, apricot and peach when grown in warmer climates. Mineral notes can also be quite prevalent, as well as delicate earthy flavors, revealing Riesling’s wonderful ability to reflect its terroir, wherever it is grown. Due to high acidity, Rieslings age extremely well and, as they do so, become more complex, displaying additional honey and toasty notes.
They can also exhibit aromas of petrol or gasoline, which may sound off-putting, but this is not a fault in the wine. It is a result of natural compounds that are most prevalent in ripe grapes from low yielding vines, which are generally used to produce higher quality wines. Consequently, these petrol aromas are often considered an indication of quality and are highly regarded by many Riesling enthusiasts.
Riesling makes wines that range from bone dry to intensely sweet – for medium-dry examples see Riesling (Kabinett & Spätlese) in the Aromatic style. Those made in the Crisp style are dry, firmer in body with higher alcohol than the Aromatic style and their acidity will appear fresher in comparison, as it is not neutralized by residual sugar (i.e. sweetness). When young, dry Riesling can appear plain and harsh, as it needs time to open up and display its wonderful bouquet and range of thrilling flavors. Rieslings produced in this dry Crisp style will still possess an aromatic quality, but they are defined by their refreshing acidity. This makes them excellent food wines, especially with fish and seafood.
At their best Rieslings are exhilarating and fully justify all the accolades they receive. It takes time to get to know and understand the complexities of these wines, but your efforts will be amply rewarded as they will give your a lifetime of pleasure.
Note: it can be difficult to know if a bottle of Riesling is dry or medium-dry as this is not always stated on the label, so be sure to ask your retailer if you are uncertain. A good indicator of whether the wine is dry or medium-dry is the alcohol level of the wine – the lower the level of alcohol the more residual sugar there is likely to be in the wine and therefore the sweeter it will taste.
Never forget the wines you love by saving them to Pocket Wine. When you do, they will appear under the My Wines tab and also be automatically added to the relevant grape variety and display the appropriate Style icon.