Riesling is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked. As of 2004, Riesling was estimated to be the world's 20th most grown variety at 48,700 hectares (120,000 acres) (with an increasing trend), but in terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the "top three" white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is a variety which is highly "terroir-expressive", meaning that the character of Riesling wines is greatly influenced by the wine's place of origin.
In cool climates (such as many German wine regions), Riesling wines tend to exhibit apple and tree fruit notes with noticeable levels of acidity that are sometimes balanced with residual sugar. A late-ripening variety that can develop more citrus and peach notes is grown in warmer climates (such as Alsace and parts of Austria). In Australia, Riesling is often noted for a characteristic lime note that tends to emerge in examples from the Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia. Riesling's naturally high acidity and pronounced fruit flavours give wines made from the grape exceptional aging potential, with well-made examples from favourable vintages often developing smoky, honey notes, and aged German Rieslings, in particular, taking on a "petrol" character.
In wine making, the delicate nature of the Riesling grape requires special handling during harvesting to avoid crushing or bruising the skin. Without this care, the broken skins could leak tannin into the juice, giving a markedly coarse taste and throwing off balance the Riesling's range of flavours and aromas.
A wine that is best at its "freshest" states, the grapes and juice may be chilled often throughout the vinification process. Once, right after picking to preserve the grapes' more delicate flavours. Second, after it has been processed through a bladder press and right before fermentation. During fermentation, the wine is cooled in temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks kept between 10 and 18 °C (50 and 64 °F). This differs from red wines that normally ferment at 24 to 29 °C (75 to 84 °F)
Unlike Chardonnay, most Riesling do not undergo malolactic fermentation. This helps preserve the tart, acidic characteristic of the wine that gives Riesling its "thirst-quenching" quality. (Producers of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio often avoid malolactic fermentation for the same reason.) Riesling is often put through a process of cold stabilisation, where the wine is stored just above its freezing point. The wine is kept at this temperature until much of the tartaric acid has crystallised and precipitated out of the wine. This helps prevent crystallisation of the acid (often called "wine diamonds") in the bottle. After this, the wine is normally filtered again to remove any remaining yeast or impurities.
In viticulture, the two main components in growing Riesling grapes are to keep it "Long & Low" meaning that the ideal situation for Riesling is a climate that allows for a long, slow ripening and proper pruning to keep the yield low and the flavour concentrated.
Alternative Names: Weisser Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling, Johannisberger, Rhine Riesling, Riesling Renano