RIESLING

This white wine originated in Germany where it continues to be the largest producer of Riesling. It comes in a distinctly shaped tall, skinny bottle and is commonly mistaken as a sweet wine only.

Riesling Vineyard sign

3 WAYS TO DECODE
SWEETNESS LEVELS

The truth is that Riesling is made in quite a range of sweet to dry. It can be a bit challenging to figure out the sweetness levels from the wine label or wine menu, but here are a few tricks to help crack the code.

1) GERMAN DESCRIPTION

German Riesling contains a description identifying if the wine is sweet or dry.

  • Kabinett:  Dry to off-dry (Dry means it is not sweet.)
    Kabinett is harvested early season before the grapes are truly ripe and while the residual sugars are still low. You may also see “Trocken” on the label which means dry.

  • Spatlese:  Semi-Sweet to Sweet
    It is a bit sweeter as compared to the Kabinett. Spatlese is harvested after the Kabinett when the grapes have ripened.

  • Auslese:  Sweet
    Auslese is part of the late harvest and when the grapes hold even more residual sugar.

  • Beerenauslese:  Very Sweet
    Part of the late harvest which provides grapes with high residual sugar.

  • Trockenbeerenauslese:  Super Sweet
    You guessed it! Late harvest. High residual sugar.

2) SWEETNESS METER

Some Riesling wine labels have a sweetness meter that identifies how sweet or dry that particular bottle is. The best idea since sliced bread!

3) ALCOHOL CONTENT

This last method considers the alcohol content in the wine. The higher the alcohol content indicates the wine should be less sweet, as there is an inverse correlation between the amount of residual sugar to alcohol.

In other words, during the fermentation process yeast eats the residual sugar turning it into alcohol. The more sugar that’s “eaten” the higher the alcohol and the less sugar that’s “eaten” the lower the alcohol content.

Using ABV to determine sweetness levels:
ABV (Alcohol by Volume) 12%+ = Dry wine
ABV 11-12% = Off-Dry
ABV 10% = Semi-Sweet
ABV 8-9% = Sweet

 

RIESLING
TOP REGIONS

These 6 countries are the biggest producers of Riesling. To explore this wine further, set up a tasting.

GERMANY: MOSEL, SAAR, RUHR

FRANCE: ALSACE

AUSTRALIA: CLARE VALLEY, EDEN VALLEY

UNITED STATES: NEW YORK (FINGER LAKES), WASHINGTON, OREGON

AUSTRIA

NEW ZEALAND

RIESLING
TASTING RECOMMENDATIONS

Exploring Riesling through tastings is a great way to familiarize your palate. And since there are a variety of sweetness levels within Riesling, it will help to experience and taste the differences between them. Keeping that in mind, I’ve put together 2 different ways to conduct this tasting. Tasting 1 recommends Riesling only from Germany with dry to sweet selections. Tasting 2 recommends dry Riesling from the top regions around the world.

Affiliate links are included for your convenience. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I’ll earn a small amount. Your cost is the same with or without the link. Enjoy!

TASTING 1 – DRY TO SWEET

For this first tasting, select 3 German Rieslings that showcase the Kabinett (dry), Spatlese (semi-sweet), and Auslese (sweet) varieties. Taste them in order from dry to sweet.

These links will take you to the wine category specified on Wine.com:

FYI: Pay attention to the wine description because some will say 375ML half bottle. Just make sure you are selecting the size you want.

TASTING 2 – TOP REGIONS

For the second tasting, select Riesling from the top 4 producing regions. Select a dry Riesling from all 4 regions to give you a better taste comparison.

These links will take you to the wine region specified on Wine.com:

  • Germany: Mosel, Saar, Ruhr labeled Kabinett or Trocken

  • France: Alsace
    This region is known for making Riesling in the dry style. You can verify by looking for Alcohol by Volume of 12% abv or more.

  • Australia: Clare Valley and Eden Valley
    To identify dry styles, look for Alcohol by Volume of 12% abv or more.

  • New York: Finger Lakes
    Dry styles are identified as Dry on the label.

RIESLING
TASTING NOTES

Whether you are actually doing the tasting or just opening a bottle, follow these 3 tasting steps. It will help you become familiar with the typical tasting profiles of Riesling or any wine. It’s one of the most important things you can do to lay that foundation of knowledge. But don’t worry about getting all of it just right. It’s really about taking in all of these senses to become more familiar.

SEE

Take your glass and tilt it over a white napkin or paper. Compare the color across all regions.


TASTING PROFILE:  Range from light straw to a deep golden color. The deeper the color the longer the aging.

SNIFF

Let’s see how aromatic Riesling is.

  1. First, hold your glass at your chest and see if you can catch a scent.

  2. Next, move it to your chin and breath in through your nose.

  3. Then put your nose in the glass and take a big sniff.


What scents do you catch? Swirl the wine and then sniff again. What scents do you catch now?


TASTING PROFILE:  An aromatic grape that you should be able to smell with the glass at your chest. It gives off floral and citrus notes.

TASTE

Take a taste and swirl it in your mouth. What flavors do you taste? After you swallow, how long does the flavor linger and how would you describe those flavors?


TASTING PROFILE:

  • Fruit:  Light fruit flavors of apple, pear, peach, and minerality that's flinty or chalky.

  • Acidity (tart, sour):  High levels (cool climate-unoaked). Low to medium levels (warm climate-oaked). 

  • Sweetness: Range of dry to sweet.

  • Tannin (dry, bitter):  None.

  • Body (weight, mouthfeel):  Light to Medium body.

  • Alcohol: 8-13.5% ABV

  • Oak or Stainless Steel:  Most mature in stainless steel. Some mature in neutral oak which affects the texture not the flavor of the wine.

EASY RATING SYSTEM

After you taste each wine, give it a rating using this easy rating system. Add notes to help remember what you liked or didn’t like about the wine.

5pts   Love!
4pts   Like
3pts   Good, but not great
2pts   Meh
1pt     Not for me

RIESLING
FOOD & CHEESE PAIRINGS

Find simple tips for pairing food and cheese with Riesling. You can even incorporate some of these foods with your wine tasting. Explore the flavors and see how it changes the taste of your wine.

LEARN MORE ABOUT
THE NOBLE GRAPES

Do a deeper exploration of these wines. Find out about the top regions and conduct a varietal specific tasting. For example, line up Pinot Noir from each of the top regions and compare.

More About Riesling
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