Monday, October 20, 2008

Riesling


Riesling is a white grape variety which originates in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked. As of 2004, Riesling was estimated to be the world's 20th most grown variety at 48,700 hectares (120,000 acres) (with an increasing trend), but in terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the "top three" white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is a variety which is highly "terroir-expressive", meaning that the character of Riesling wines is clearly influenced by the wine's place of origin.

In 2006, Riesling was the most grown variety in Germany with 20.8% and 21,197 hectares (52,380 acres), and in the French region of Alsace with 21.9% and 3,350 hectares (8,300 acres). There are also significant plantings of Riesling in Austria, northern Italy, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, China and Ukraine. In the countries where it is cultivated, Riesling is most commonly grown in colder regions and locations.

Riesling has a long history, and there are several written references to the variety dating from the 15th century, although with varying orthography. The earliest of these references dates from March 13, 1435, when the storage inventory of the high noble Count John IV. of Katzenelnbogen in Rüsselsheim (a small principality on the Rhine, close to today's Rheingau) lists "22 ß umb seczreben Rießlingen in die wingarten" ("22 shillings for Riesling vine cuttings for the vineyard"). The spelling Rießlingen is repeated in many other documents of the time. The modern spelling Riesling was first documented in 1552 when it was mentioned in Hieronymus Bock's Latin herbal.

A map of Kintzheim in Alsace from 1348 contains the text zu dem Russelinge, but it is not certain that this reference is to the grape variety. However, in 1477, Riesling was documented in Alsace under the spelling Rissling. In Wachau in Austria, there is a small stream and a small vineyard both called Ritzling, which are claimed locally to have given Riesling its name. However, there seem to be no documentary evidence to back this up, so this claim is not widely believed to be correct.

Riesling wines are often consumed when young, when they make a fruity and aromatic wine which may have aromas of green or other apples, grapefruit, peach, honey, rose blossom or cut green grass, and usually a crisp taste due to the high acidity. However, Riesling's naturally high acidity and range of flavours make it suitable for extended aging. International wine expert Michael Broadbent rates aged German Rieslings, some hundreds of years old, extremely highly. Sweet Riesling wines, such as German Trockenbeerenauslese are especially suited for cellaring since the high sugar content provides for additional preservation. However, high quality dry or off-dry Riesling wine is also known to have not just survived but also been enjoyable at an age exceeding 100 years.

The townhall of Bremen, Germany, stores various German wines, including Riesling based wines, in barrel back to the 1653 vintage.

More common aging periods for Riesling wines would be 5-15 years for dry, 10-20 years for semi-sweet and 10-30+ for sweet versions.

1 comment:

Kate Farber said...

interesting notes i took away from last night's meeting:

RIESLING
- "Trocken" means dry
- "Spatlese" means sweet
- The higher the alcohol content, the dryer the wine
- Rieslings are typically high in acidity
- If you're eating something you would prepare with lemon, Riesling is probably a good wine accompaniment
- Typical fruits: green apple, peach
- Alsace/Austria produce dryer Rieslings

CHARDONNAY
- Chablis is a region that grows Chardonnay grapes. Most of these wines aren't oaked
- I really enjoyed tasting an un-oaked Chardonnay because the real flavors of the grape came through

Thanks!

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