Your 5 minute guide to Riesling

Your 5 minute guide to Riesling

The number of Rieslings on offer here at By The Bottle is disproportionate. We love it. It’s like great music, precise but invigorating, tense but satisfying. We want you to love it too, so here’s our Five Minute Guide to help you get on board the Riesling train.

It originates in the Rhine River of Germany, and to this day Germany produces more Riesling than any other variety, and any other country. 

While it’s far from the most widely planted white grape variety in the world, it’s all about quality, upheld with the likes of Chardonnay as one of the greats.

It's considered an aromatic variety, having a higher proportion of aromatic compounds (terpenes). It’s also marked by its high acidity. This is often balanced out with the sweetness of natural grape sugar left unfermented in the wine.

It’s produced in a wide range of styles and Germany has a detailed (if not complex) system of labeling Riesling to indicate the level of sweetness/ripeness. Check out Wine Folly’s excellent guide to this here.

As a generalisation, Alsace in France, Austria and Australia produce dry styles. In New Zealand the level of sweetness varies more, and depends on the producer. Most of our Rieslings are grown from about Wairarapa southwards to Central Otago. Producers in New Zealand generally label their wines ‘Dry’ if they are so, and some have a handy scale indicating the level of sweetness on the back label.

The best way to get your head around Riesling is to get it in your glass, so follow our lead. 

Dry Riesling - it’s like The Boneline team have captured the Canterbury autumn morning with this crisp, invigorating number. Koehler Ruprecht in Pfalz, Germany show us that dry Riesling can be rich, layered and powerful. And proving the remarkable aging potential of the variety, Pewsey Vale’s museum release The Contours 2015 exhibits Riesling’s savoury side.

Off Dry - with a touch more sweetness comes lower alcohol, as grape sugar is left unfermented. That makes these styles ideal as we become more thoughtful of our alcohol consumption. Ansgar Clüsserath Kabinett is a honeyed, beautifully textured expression of an amazing Mosel site. And Marlborough based Settlement have absolutely nailed this vibrant, appley, off-dry style.

Top Notch - like we said, it’s one of the greatest white varieties, so why not try the best. From one of the most remote wine regions in the world, Frankland Estate in Western Australia make their exquisite, taut and super dry Isolation Ridge Riesling. And one of Germany’s best producers AC Christmann’s expression of the Idig Grand Cru vineyard is one to really sit down and contemplate.