Riesling is a highly aromatic and fruity grape variety. It has been regarded as the greatest white wine grape for hundreds of years. Throughout history, Riesling has been revered for its vibrant personality, its pure fruit flavors, its astonishing diversity of styles, its ability to show you where it was grown, its versatility with food, and its ability to age for decades. The variety fell on hard times in the mid-20th century, but wine lovers are rediscovering its greatness.
A vibrant personality
The amazing thing about Riesling is that it is immediately pleasing, even to a new wine drinker, yet it also can have great depth and many seemingly contradictory facets that fascinate wine afficionados. It is both delicate and intense, crisp and juicy, floral and minerally, refreshing and complex, transparent and dense. It is a wine with a unique character and a vibrant personality.
Pure fruit, no make-up needed
Because of Riesling’s bright, pure fruit and elegantly poised structure, it has no need for the cosmetic enhancements of new oak, malolactic fermentation or high alcohol. The best Rieslings are only pure fruit, vinified as simply as possible to reveal the true character of the vineyard. Typical fruit flavors in a cool-climate Riesling can range from citrus and green apple to peach, apricot, mango and guava. Some Rieslings have a little bit of everything, drenching your palate with layers and layers of fruity delight. But one thing stays true: Riesling is always recognizable as Riesling.
A celebration of diversity
Riesling is one of the few grapes that can produce wines in the complete sweetness range, from totally dry to extremely sweet, or anything in between, and still maintain its distinctive fruit character and fine structure. This unique ability gives Riesling a stylistic range that no other variety can match.
A taste of home
All wines reflect their origins to some degree. But Riesling’s unadulterated purity gives it a transparency that allows the character of the soil, climate and culture of its winegrowing region to shine through, uninhibited. This adds an extra dimension of diversity to Riesling’s broad range of sweetness levels. From the lime-tinged, austerely dry Rieslings of Australia, to the sappy, apple and mineral style of Washington state, to the feathery, slate-soil delicacy of the Mosel, Riesling captures the essence of the land and its people like no other variety.
Plays well with food
Riesling’s incredible diversity — dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, sweet, very sweet, stony, minerally, waxy, oily, fruity, floral, delicate and light, forceful and full-bodied — means that it is possible to find a Riesling for nearly every occasion, every palate and every dish. Riesling’s purity shines here, again, because it allows the wine to enhance the flavors of food, rather than competing with them or covering them up. This is especially true with today’s lighter, healthier cooking that features fresh, local ingredients. Lighter Rieslings with a bit of sweetness and low alcohol cool the palate and match perfectly with the lighter texture of spicy Asian cuisine. Riesling’s crisp acidity cleanses and refreshes the palate, while intensifying the flavors of food, making it ideal for heavier, classic dishes with butter or cream, as well. Very sweet, dessert-style Rieslings are gorgeous to drink on their own, with fruit-based desserts, or with rich blue cheeses.
Wine for the ages
A well-made Riesling can age longer than any other grape variety, red or white. Riesling grows slowly and needs a long time to ripen in order to develop its flavors fully. That’s why it’s best grown in cool regions, where it can retain its acidity very late into the growing season. With full ripeness, excellent fruit concentration and naturally high acidity, Rieslings (especially those with well-balanced sweetness) have the density and structure to age for many decades.