Although Chardonnay is the best known wine grape in the world and Sauvignon Blanc is the next up and coming grape, Riesling is perhaps the grape which wine connoisseurs appreciate the most.
Riesling is often misunderstood by the average wine drinker who only thinks the grape can produce sweet wines. This is extremely unfortunate because the grape, perhaps more then any other is able to take the characteristics of the vineyard in which it grows. Although we can’t even go so far as making a statement about the grapes flavor profile, it does often take a minerality component from the soil in which it is planted.
Riesling gains it highest point in the Mosel region of Germany. Named for the river which winds through the region, it is one of the coolest growing climates in the world. That aspect has lead to the wine keeping such a high amount of acidity and a constant need for ripeness. The soil is largely shale which more then any other mineral keeps sunlight and warmness for some time after the sun goes down. To that point German vintners will pick up each and every piece of shale that falls off and replace it. Even the reflection off the water is valued for the ripeness it can help the fruit attain.
The French also make Riesling, mainly in the region directly next to Germany. Interestingly, despite their continued complaints about American and other new world Cabernet Sauvignon being too full bodied and having too high of alcohol, when it comes to Riesling that is a perfect description of French wine.
Both regions produce quality wine and Riesling is also produced into a good wine in the United States, Canada and also Australia. Let’s take a deeper dive and see what’s happening with Riesling in some spots around the world:
Riesling in California:
First and foremost, there’s more Riesling in California than you realize. It’s also pretty steady, which is saying something. Grapes do need to be pulled out over time and simply having the same number of plantings on a consistent basis, shows that someone is without a doubt, planting the grape.
By my count, it’s the 6th most planted white wine in the state. Here’s how Riesling compares with other white wine grapes in California. Just a quick note, the numbers above and below won’t match exactly. Above, I’m showing only those acres of vine that are online and producing. Below, these are the total number, so that’ll include older vines that need to be pulled out, or younger one’s still in their 5 year journey to produce fruit.
Riesling in New York State:
We all obsess, over cooler climate vineyard conditions and normally, a big body of water helps grapes grow, by cooling them down at night and over the warm summer months.
In the Finger Lakes near Seneca Lake and really all of the parts of the Finger Lakes in New York State though, the inverse is true: the deep water lake provides warmth during the cold winter months and a warm blanket of sorts at night even during the growing season. In cold growing regions, that’s more important than you think because mildew can be a major, major issue. Especially if vintners want to be organic, or at least adhere to organic principles more often than not, staying closer to the lake is better than further away.
Ok, so no discussion of Riesling in New York State would be complete without a quick reminder, that New York based wineries have one obvious advantage, being in the same state as the largest wine market in America. NYC is obviously, really really competitive and I’ll give New York State vintners one thing, Riesling is tough to sell. If they got to choose a different grape to hang their hats, almost anything would be easier.
Why Riesling Doesn’t Sell:
I’ll wade in to something that perhaps I shouldn’t. Why Riesling doesn’t sell. The story here is likely multifold, at least. To start, it’s a difficult
Riesling Food Pairings: