Riesling is a white cultivar that has captured the hearts of white wine lovers everywhere. Riesling was first produced in Germany, where it is responsible for highly aromatic wines with zesty acidity. Typically, Riesling offers aromas of flavours, ranging from apples and lime to peaches, blossoms, nuts, gasoline, and beeswax. However, the grape variety is highly expressive of its terroir, where it adapts to each unique environment. What you experience with a bottle of Riesling depends on its region, growing conditions, and age, highlighting its adaptability and versatility.
Different Styles of Riesling
Rieslings offer quite different experiences depending on where it is grown in the world. But in South Africa, the hot climate results in wines high in sugar and alcohol, with slightly less acidity than places like Germany. The high alcohol also creates an oily mouth-feel, with flavours ranging from lime, white flowers and orange blossoms to peaches and pineapple.
Since Riesling has proven to be such a diverse grape that adapts to any environment and is capable of aging exceptionally well, the grape is made in various styles. Not only are dry Rieslings one of the most popular, but the sweeter styles are becoming increasingly admired.
Any Riesling can be made in a dry or sweet style; it really just depends on the winemaker. However, wines from Austria, France, and The United States tend to lean more toward the drier type. While Riesling is able to age exceptionally well, drier Rieslings should be aged anything from five years to fifteen years.
Sweet Riesling is commonly made by stopping the fermentation process mid-way. By stopping the fermentation, the yeast does not consume all the sugar, which accounts for the sweetness. Sugar acts as a preservative in wine, which means sweeter Rieslings can age slightly longer. The ideal ageing period for sweet Rieslings is between ten and thirty years.
These wines fall in the middle of sweet and dry Rieslings with just a hint of sweetness. Much like with sweet Rieslings, the winemakers are able to achieve this by stopping the fermentation process. However, they do this much later on when more of the sugar is converted into alcohol. Since there is still sugar in the wine, these styles of Riesling can also age between ten and twenty years.
The most common sparkling Riesling comes from Germany, where it is known as ‘Sekt.’ It is a wine that is enjoyed thoroughly by the locals and cannot easily be found outside of German borders. To make these wines, the winemakers ferment the wines in large steel tanks to convert the sugar into alcohol. Thereafter, the wines are fermented in steel tanks again, but the second time is to create the natural bubbles in the wine. Once the wine is sparkling, it is pumped into bottles, and corks are added. This is not the same winemaking method used to make the renowned Champagne wines, where the second formation takes place inside the bottle.
Riesling Food Pairing Ideas
Riesling’s diversity makes it an excellent food wine. Not only are young Rieslings capable of pairing with a number of dishes, but older Rieslings also bring a whole other element to the pairing experience.
Sweet and semi-sweet wines are the best wine to pair with spicy food since the sugar counter-balances the heat of the dish. Try these wines with Thai food or Indian curries.
The complex notes of dry Rieslings should not be underestimated and should be paired with food that is equally as complex in flavors. Here, Asian stir-frys are the ideal option.
If you haven’t explored the wondrous world of Riesling yet, we highly suggest you do. We cannot emphasize enough how Riesling can change your perspective about wine, food, and regions. By experiencing a number of different Rieslings of different and different styles, you will come to appreciate the significant impact winemaking techniques and terroir have on different wines.