Riesling is one of those white wine grape varieties that most people have strong feelings about - whether that’s for or against. Now, most of us would have had at least one traumatising experience of a sickly sweet Riesling in our youth (we did, at least), and have either come back around to the grape, or continue to be wary of it. There is, however, good reason as to why Riesling continues to be one of the favourite grapes of wine professionals & enthusiasts around the world!
Originating in the Rhine River region (which encompasses Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland), Riesling sits in the aromatic family of grape varieties. Renowned for its zingy acid lines, it’s a grape variety that can be grown and vinified in various ways - from the dry & crisp citrus-forward iterations that Australia is well-known for, all the way to the lusciously sweet Trockenbeerenauslese styles from Germany (and everything in between).
While we could chat about Riesling for hours (while drinking it, of course) it’s hard not to gravitate towards focusing on the prolific examples from Germany. If you’re new to the many splendored world of Germanic Rieslings, the laboriously labelled bottles can be a bit daunting - but it doesn’t need to be that complicated (though there are some red herrings in the mix).
In Germany, the labelling system is based on the must weight at harvest (aka how much sugar is present in the grapes when they’re picked - often also referred to as brix or baume). Depending on your preference, a great place to start is in the ‘trocken’, or dry category, these wines prize zingy acid lines, and low residual sugar. From there, you can move onto ‘feinherb’ or ‘halbtrockens’ (off-dry), then move into the Prädikatswein, which starts at Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, and Trockenbeerenauslese - with Kabinett being the driest (least sugar) to Trockenbeerenauslese being the most lusciously sweet.
As the Prädikatswein technically refers to the must weight at harvest, however, you can still end up with wines that say things like Spätlese Trocken - which means that the wine was picked at a Spätlese level of ripeness, then fermented dry.
This huge range of complexities is also not unique to Germany - while local examples may not adhere to such a strict set of labelling laws (classic Australia, right?), there are many modern producers who’ve taken inspiration from the prolific Rieslings of the world, with a multitude of great examples that span a diverse range from the zingy and bright through to the lusciously sweet.
Moving on from the technicalities… While it’s great to nerd out about all the myriad aspects, for us so much of the joy of wine comes in the drinking, and sharing those delicious bottles with the ones we love. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of Riesling (or just want to get into one you haven’t tried before), give some of the below a try - or pop into one of our stores and let our staff guide you through the range on offer! There’s always something to suit any budget, and they can guide you towards just the right bottle for your tastes.
2019 Rieslingfreak No.3 Riesling
2019 Heroes Dry Riesling
2018 Peter Lauer Fass 25 Riesling
2018 Peter Lauer Ayler Fass 6 Senior Riesling
2017 Von Hovel Feinherb Riesling
2016 Joh Jos Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
2017 Willi Schaefer Graacher Drompst Spätlese #5