One of my favorite grapes in the entire world is Riesling. Big surprise, most sommeliers go nuts over high acid mineral driven whites. Riesling is my go to as a sommelier for hard to pair foods. So, let’s dig deep into what makes Riesling such an amazing grape.
In the Rhine in Germany (present day Rheingau) the first written records of Riesling date back to the 1400’s with less certifiable mentions of plantings in Austria and Alsace in 1200’s and 1300’s respectively. Germany’s Rhine Valley is universally regarded as the home of the grape none the less. Riesling is a cross of the Gouais Blanc and a Traminer/ wild grape hybrid that is unknown. As most wine stories go, the clergy played a part in shaping the modern role of this tasty grape. Riesling came to prominence (or so the stories go) when the Cistercian Monks of Kloster Eberbach in the Rheingau decided that the red wines were too light and thus unfit for their drinking. A vine pull was mandated and from then on Riesling has been the most notable German varietal.
I joke that Riesling is my favorite acid trip —- No, I have not really done acid. Riesling is one of the highest acid grape varietals you will ever find. No, that’s not a joke, when I traveled to the Mosel earlier this year I tasted so many Rieslings that the enamel began to come off my teeth. OW. As a general rule Riesling is always high acid, floral and mineral driven. Riesling is an aromatic and intense grape. It can however vary significantly in taste and texture based on where it is from.
Modern Wine Growing Regions
Nowadays Riesling can be found all around the world but does best in cooler climate regions with a lot of sun.
Some of the best expressions of Riesling and producers can be found in the regions below; I have also listed some of my favorite producers and tasting notes to delineate the stylistic differences:
Alsace, France – Underripe stone fruit, peach, apricot, grapefruit peel, lime, honey suckle, camomile, ginger, wet rock
Pretty much all of Germany – Petrol, green apple, underripe peach, meyer lemon, jasmine, saffron, bee’s wax, honey, slate.
Most of Austria – Petrol, fresh cut grass, nectarine, orange flower water, candied ginger, roasted hazelnut, wet rock, slate, limestone
Australia – Plastic, lime candy, salt, green melon, tart tropical fruit, mandarin, limestone, slate.
Washington State – Rubber, grapefruit, lime peel, almond, honey, bee’s wax,
So in conclusion — almost all riesling has a slight chemical or synthetic smell, tart, citrus, a little bit of spice, a honeyed or nutty character, and LOTS of minerality.
PS. If you are a member of Palate Club — Each wine selected for PC is input into the algorithm with full tasting notes by us. It’s a pretty cool, detailed (albeit lengthy) process.
Favorite Wine and Food Pairings
Riesling goes well with high fat and spicy foods. Some of the most mind blowing pairings I’ve tried are Tart Flambe and Spaetzle with Alsace Riesling and German Riesling with Thai food. Why is Thai food a good pairing with Riesling? The spicy Thai is cooled by the slight hint of sweetness found in most German Rieslings. Riesling is also great with cured meats and sausages. Need some help understanding how to read German wine laws? Check out Aubrey’s blog on this topic here.