Riesling Wine


Riesling is the 11 th most planted white varietal in the world, and 21 st overall. Its parentage is Traminer, and a

cross of Gouais Blanc and Vitis Vinifera Silvestris (a wild vine growing in the forests of the upper Rhine).

Riesling was planted in Germany as early as the 11 th century, but was more widespread by the 18 th . It was the

first white wine to be traded, as it has the dual abilities of communicating terroir and evolving with age. It can

also be labeled as Johannesburg Riesling in California, or Rhein Riesling in Australia.

Growing Attributes

Riesling grows in some of the world’s coldest wine-producing regions, as it is one of the few varietals that can

ripen even after the weather becomes cool. This is important as bud break happens late, which means extra

time is often needed into the autumn. More recently, it has also been proven to do well in warm climates, as

long as it cools off at night. A Riesling vineyard can yield as much as 400 hl per ha (30 tons per acre), but this

dilutes flavor and structure. Yields are typically 100 hl per ha (6 tons an acre) for entry level wines, with quality

wines at 60 hl per ha (4.4 tons per acre) or less. There are significant plantings of Riesling in Germany (Mosel-

Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Rheinpfalz, Rheinhessen), France (Alsace), Austria, Australia, New Zealand, New

York, Washington and British Columbia.

An interesting attribute of Riesling is that it is often crossed with other varieties. Crosses include Muller-

Thurgau (Riesling x Madeline Royale), Scheurebe (Silvaner x Riesling), Bacchus (Silvaner x Riesling and

Muller-Thurgau), and Kerner (Trollinger x Riesling). Most of these were crossed in Germany for increased

yields or early ripening. Emerald Riesling was created in California by crossing Riesling and Muscadelle, and

can flourish in very hot climates.

Which soils they work well with

The Riesling vine will grow well on a variety of soils, but is particularly happy on well-drained soils that warm up

quickly in the sun. Popular rootstocks include 3309C, 110R, Teleki 5C, Kober 5BB, and Freedom. The choice

of rootstock will matter more on low vigor sites. Conversely, sites with fertile soils with high moisture will cause

the vines to be more vigorous. Hillsides are best as they provide better drainage, and can be angled toward

the sun. The composition of the soil has a huge influence on what the final wine will taste like. Riesling excels

on the slate hillsides of the Mosel and Rheingau, the Limestone marl in Alsace, and the granite cliffs of

Wachau. Thin top-soils make elegant Riesling, while deeper soils make fuller wines.

Attributes of the grape berry itself

The Riesling vine produces smaller (often winged) clusters of small, round, yellow-green berries. These berries

typically have moderate sugar, high acid and a low PH click here to investigate. The small size means the skin to juice ratio is higher,

meaning the flavors are more concentrated. The pigment of the skin is more yellowish than other varietals, and

contains a high proportion of carotenes, which develop a kerosene aroma as the wine ages. Due to the

delicate nature of the skin, extra care must be taken not to damage incoming grapes. This will maintain the

“freshness” in the final wine.

Resulting styles of wine

Riesling produces dry and off-dry single varietal wines, as well as Botrytised, Eiswein and Late-Harvest dessert

wines. It is also blended with other varietals in the production of both still and sparkling wines.

Riesling is the most transparent of all the grapes, and grows in several areas. German wines are measured

based on ripeness, or must weight when picked. The levels are Kabinett (thin, low alcohol), Spatlese (later

harvest), Auslese (selected harvest), Beerenauslese (selected berries), and Trockenbeerenauslese (selected

dried berries). The first three levels can be dry or off-dry, and the last two levels are dessert wines. An

important region is the Mosel, where vines are perilously perched on steep cliffs over the river. This is

Rieslings northern limit for growing, with some sites not getting ripe enough to be legally called wine. Wines

from the Mosel tend to be light bodied with high acid. They can either be dry or off-dry. They grow out of brittle

slate with very little top-soil, giving them high minerality, but light body. The other important region in Germany

is the Rheingau. It occupies south facing slopes above the Rhine River. This is a warmer area with more

decomposed soil, and as a result, the wines have more body. The extra body is better balanced when the wine

is dry.

In France, the only region permitted to grow Riesling is Alsace. Here, it prefers sandy-clay, loamy soils with

abundant coarse material. Alsatian Rieslings tend to be dry, fuller bodied, and more floral with more obvious

alcohol. Alsace also makes 2 types of dessert wines; Selection de Grains Nobles (botrytis) and Vendage

Tardive (late harvest). Riesling is also blended with other whites to produce a still “Edelzwicker”, or sparkling

“Cremant d’Alsace” using the traditional method. Austria also produces Riesling, the best coming from terraced

hillsides in Wachau. The wines sit somewhere between the German styles, exhibiting both body and minerality.

Rieslings from Germany, France, and Austria should be clearly distinguishable, due to terroir and simple

winemaking. Riesling also grown in the Clare and Eden Valleys in Australia, with the aim of producing

intensely fruity, dry (or very close to it) wines. Tasmania and New Zealand tend to produce Mosel-like


One commonality of all the above mentioned regions is that the lower slopes produce the heaviest, richest

wines and the upper slopes the most elegant and delicate wines.

Outline- Riesling


11 th most planted white varietal, and 21 st overall

Descended from Traminer, Gouais Blanc and wild Vinifera species

Sometimes called Johannesburg Riesling in California or Rhein Riesling in Australia

Can communicate terroir and evolve with age

Growing attributes

Can grow in world’s coldest wine-producing regions

Has been proven to do well in moderate regions as well

Can produce very high yields, but wines have no flavor or structure

Typical yields are 100 hl per ha (6 tons an acre) for “basic” wines

60 hl per ha (4.4 tons an acre) for premium wines


Muller-Thurgau (Riesling x Madeline Royale)

Scheurebe (Silvaner x Riesling)

Bacchus (Silvaner x Riesling and Muller-Thurgau)

Kerner (Trollinger x Riesling)

Emerald Riesling (Riesling x Muscadelle)


Can grow on a variety of different soils

Likes well-drained soils that warm up quickly in the sun

Vines are more vigorous on fertile soils with high moisture

Good rootstocks are 3309C, 110R, Teleki 5C, Kober 5BB, and Freedom

Soil has huge impact on resulting wine

Best wines come from hillsides, as they have better drainage and are angled to the sun

Thin top-soils make elegant Riesling, while deeper soils make fuller wines

Grape berry

Smaller (often winged) clusters

Small round yellow-green berries

Moderate sugar

High Acid

Small size makes flavors more concentrated

Yellow pigment are terpenes – responsible for kerosene aroma as the wine ages

Delicate grape skin – intact preserves freshness

Resulting styles of wine Riesling produces

Dry and off-dry table Wines

Dessert wines – Botrytised, Eiswein, Late-Harvest


Still blends

German ripeness levels – Kabinett, Spatlese, etc…

Mosel, Germany
Thin, low alcohol, minerality, often off-dry

Dessert – Botrytis, Eiswein, Late-Harvest


Medium bodied, dry

Dessert – Botrytis, Late-Harvest

Alsace, France

Fuller bodied, dry, floral, more obvious alcohol table wines

Still blends called “Edelzwicker”

Sparkling “Cremant d’Alsace
Dessert Wines

Selection de Grains Nobles (botrytis)

Vendage Tardive (late harvest)


Medium bodied, high minerality


Intensely fruity, dry