The Beauty of Riesling Wines

Urziger Wurzgarten Vineyard

Urziger Wurzgarten Vineyard

Riesling Wines are very interesting and allure many different types of wine drinkers.  It has been my finding that people who are not really serious wine drinkers tend to go for the sweeter versions of this style of wine. There are many different styles of Riesling wines.  Riesling is a noble grape that originated in the Rhine region of Germany where it still dominates.  A question was asked at GOTN on what is meant by a noble grape.  Noble grapes, also known as international varieties, refer to grapes that are found in many different wine regions that are highly sought after.  Noble grapes are usually varietals that have a long history, such as Rieslings wines.  Riesling wines show definite characteristics dependent on the terroir that they come from.  Cool climates, such as Germany, have high acidity and exhibit apple type flavors where warmer climates, like Australia, tend to display a lime characteristic. The characteristics of this German wine is that it has a very floral bouquet with flavors of peach, honey and apricot on the palate.  Let’s throw in a little shocker, “Not all Rieslings are sweet”.  Rieslings from Alsace tend to be drier than other areas.  Rieslings are actually broken up into five different styles based heavily on sweetness; from driest to sweetest they are Kabinett, Spaltlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese.

Good Rieslings, due to their high acidity and sugar content, can be cellared forever.  By that I mean 50-100 years in some fine Rieslings.  This just blows me away.  We are always looking at body, acids and appropriate chemistry to determine the cellar life expectancy of our red wines yet a Riesling, with its normal high acid and sugar, will age for many years.  Aged Rieslings, however, do take on definite characteristics of petrol and honey notes.  Riesling is among the top three choices by consumers for white varietals next to Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.  Another item that is interesting is that Rieslings are never aged in oak.

Some Rieslings are are affected by a disease known as Noble Rot which is caused by a grey fungus called Botrytis Cinerea.  There are actually two different types of infections from botrytis.

Noble Rot (Botrytis Cinerea)

Noble Rot (Botrytis Cinerea)


  • Grey Rot, which is caused by wet damp conditions, results in loss of grape clusters that are affected.

  • Noble Rot occurs when a damp wet condition is followed by a dry condition.  Noble Rot creates a unique flavor that is found, and loved, in many sweet desert wines such as Sauternes and Tokaji.

The fungus removes water from the grape concentrating a higher percentage of sugar, fruit acids and minerals.  This interaction creates a very intense dessert wine with a unique flavor that is difficult to describe.

Rieslings are very unique and probably among one of the most misunderstood wines.  By this I mean that when you ask people if they would like a glass of Riesling wine most assume that it will be  sweet but this is definitely not true as discovered from the examples poured at GOTN.  

If you are pairing with various types of foods this opens the door to a wide range of appetizers, entrees and desserts.  One pairing example that may surprise you is that spicy foods go well with a good Riesling. 

GOTN Riesling was an experience that opened many eyes on a wine that most of us shy away from  based on a perception that they are all sweet.  I hope that this tasting enlightened those that came to a new experience with such a fantastic varietal.

To help remember the nuances of this beautiful varietal, I leave you with a comical, but truthful, overview of Rieslings from Appellation America,

You are the matriarch, though your numerous offspring rarely match your noble nature. You teach us to say words like'trockenbeerenauslese' with reverence and pride. You approach every situation with grace and elegance, yet remain firm when the situation dictates. You bring balance to an unbalanced world of Chardonnayism. You are without question the Queen of the Rhineland, with a commonwealth extending to the far away lands of Australia, Canada and America. You are The Great Lady ~ La Grande Dame ~ Die Grossartige Frau! "

I want to thank everyone that attended GOTN Riesling.  I hope that the knowledge and excitement about wines and wine knowledge was shared by all.  I would like to thank Guy Lelarge for allowing us to enjoy the warm service and hospitality of Valencia Wine Company. Guy and his staff are top notch in my book.  Hope to see everyone at our next wine adventure.


Rusty Sly