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by David on November 13, 2012

Riesling is a white grape variety which orginated in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying floral, perfumed aromas and crisp acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling white wines. Riesling is a variety which is highly “terrior-expressive”, meaning that the character of Riesling wines is clearly influenced by the wine’s place of origin.

Riesling has a long history, and there are several written references to the variety dating from the 15th century. DNA fingerprinting by Ferdinand Regner indicated that one parent of Riesling is Gouais Blanc, known to the Germans as Weißer Heunisch, a variety that, while rare today, was widely grown by the French and German peasantry of the Middle Ages. The other parent is a cross between a wild vine and Traminer. It is presumed that the Riesling was born somewhere in the valley of the Rhine, since both Heunisch and Traminer have a long documented history in Germany.1

In viticulture, the two main components in growing Riesling grapes are to allow for a long, slow ripening and proper pruning to keep the yield low and the flavor concentrated grapes. Riesling expresses the terroir of the place where it is grown, and it is particularly well suited for slate and sandy clay soil.
In winemaking, the delicate nature of the Riesling grape requires special handling during harvest to avoid breaking the skin and thereby upsetting Riesling’s balance of flavors and aromas. A wine that’s best at its freshest state, the grapes and juice may be chilled to preserve their more delicate flavors right after it has been pressed and during fermentation. Unlike Chardonnay, most Rieslings do not undergo malolactic fermentation. This helps preserve the bright, acidic characteristic of the wine that gives Riesling its “thirst-quenching” quality.

Rieslings are often consumed young, when they present a fruity and floral nose with aromas of apples, Muscat, peach, honey, rose petal, lime blossom and minerality. The palate is crisp due to the firm acidity. Rieslings are usually made as 100% varietal and rarely aged in oak cooperage. Riesling’s naturally crisp acidity and range of flavors make it suitable for extended bottle aging.

With time, Riesling tends to acquire a petrol note which is sometimes described as similar to kerosene. While an integral part of the aroma profile of mature Riesling and sought after by many experienced drinkers, it may be off-putting to those unaccustomed to it, and those who mainly seek young and fruity aromas in their wine. High quality dry or off-dry Riesling is known to be enjoyable even at 100 years! More common aging periods for Riesling would be 5-15 years for dry, 10-20 years for semi-sweet, and 10-30+ years for sweet wines.

The most expensive wines made from Riesling are late harvest dessert wines. These concentrated wines have more sugar, more acid to give balance to all the sugar, more flavor, and more complexity. Late Harvest Riesling is a wine of gorgeous delicacy, complexity, wonderful minerality, perfect balance and expressive flavors. Riesling, one of the world’s noble grape varieties, makes a versatile wine for pairing with food because of its balance of sugar and acidity. It can be paired with white fish, pork, Thai and Chinese cuisine. A Riesling’s typical aromas are of flowers, tropical fruits, and mineral stone (such as slate or quartz), and with time the wine acquires a petrol note. Dry Riesling is generally served at a cool 52°F, while sweeter Rieslings are often served a little warmer.

Flavor Profile: Apple, Muscat, peach, honey, rose petal, lime blossom, floral, mineral

1 Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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