Rieslings the lone wolf of wine. It like the Pinot Noir isn’t often blended and Rieslings don’t often see oak so what you taste is the grape itself and the subtleties of the terrior (climate, soil, aspect, slope, etc.). An expressive grape it is, both in aromas and flavors.
It is also a very hardy grape; it flourishes in the cool to moderate climates which is why Rieslings are Germany’s shining jewel of wine. It ripens late in the season and is often susceptible to botrytis rot (also known as noble rot). Why would rot be noble you ask? It concentrates the sugar in the grape, and those grapes are often used for non-fortified sweet wines. I will get into sweet wines in more detail later, but just wanted to touch on how the uniqueness of Rieslings can produce a wide variety of wines.
The variety of Rieslings range from dry to sweet, still to sparkling, light to medium body and fruit to floral. It usually is on the higher acid side which is common with the grapes in cooler climates. Cooler climates produce Rieslings with more floral notes, green fruit like apples or even green grapes, and citrus fruits. Rieslings from more moderate climates move into the stone fruits like white peaches and apricots and even into some tropical fruits like pineapple or mango. Regardless of the climate, Rieslings can sport a lovely petrol flavor as its ages and often picks up the minerality from the soil.
All that sounds delicious right? How to pick the best Riesling for you? I, personally, like drier wines. That is my personal preference so when I pick a Riesling, unless I am pairing it with something sweeter, I try to get the driest Riesling I can find. The easiest way to determine that is by the percentage of alcohol (yeast + sugar = alcohol & CO2), the higher the percentage of alcohol generally the drier the wine. So, if you like a sweeter Riesling, go for the ones that are 8-10% alcohol. If you, are like me, and like dryer/off-dry wines pick up a Riesling that is above 11%. Also, look for key words on the bottle that will indicate its sweetness levels:
- Dry: Trocken/Sec/Secco/Seco/Brut/Szaraz
- Off-Dry/Medium Dry: Halbtrocken/Semisecco/Semi-seco/ Demi-sec
- Medium Sweet: Moelleux/Amabile/Adamado
- Luscious: Suss/Edes/Dulce/Doux/Dolce/Doce
Regardless of the of the sweetness of the wine, Rieslings produce such great wines that will never disappoint you.
I chose to do Rieslings now as we are heading into the holiday season. Rieslings are my go-to pairing wine for my holiday meals. Our family usually does turkey or ham and Rieslings go with both. For a turkey, I usually go with a dryer Riesling and for the ham, I break my own “dry only” rule and get a sweeter one.
I also recommend Rieslings for gifts for any wine lover in your life, because the beauty of a Riesling wine is the grape and not the wine making, it is generally enjoyed by all taste buds. Who doesn’t love apples or citrus, or peaches or apricots?
It is not time to get out there and enjoy some Rieslings. I will be reviewing a couple over the next few days as well so watch my Instagram. Have fun and let me know what your favourites are.
- Common cool climates for Rieslings: Mosel (Germany), South Island (New Zealand)
- Common moderate climates for Rieslings: Rheingau, Pfalz (Germany), Austria, Alsace (France), Clare Valley, Eden Valley from Australia