Riesling: The German Prince

Riesling is produced all over the world of wine, but in general, it thrives in cool climates. Its home is in Germany, where it represents more than half of all fine wine production. German Riesling is produced in a number of quality levels, based on the sugar content of the grape juice before fermentation. We cover this system in the section on Germany.



Rieslings from Germany and Alsace in France indicate Riesling on their labels

  • Aromatic grape with flowery, almost perfumed, aromas
  • High acidity
  • Makes dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling white wines.
  • Usually varietally pure and unoaked.
  • No malolactic fermentation
  • Highly terroir expressive

Riesling’s naturally high acidity and pronounced fruit flavors give it a great aging potential

  • Well-made examples from favorable vintages often develop smoky, honey notes
  • Aged German Rieslings may take on “petrol” character.

German Riesling’s Reputation Problem

  • For many years, sickly sweet and cheap German wines were widely sold as “Rieslings,” although most of the grapes used for these wines were Sylvaner and Müller Thurgau.
  • The fact that many quality Rieslings have a sweetness to balance their high acidity puts off many buyers with bad memories of these forgettable wines.
  • The International Riesling Foundation has strict guidelines as to classifying sweetness levels of wines based on sugar vs. acidity (each in grams per liter) taking into consideration pH.
  • Grams per liter is a measure of the amount of acid or sugar in a wine while pH is a measure of the strength of acidity.
  • It is all about how sweet the wine tastes rather than the actual level of sugar in the wine – the perception of sweetness.
  • It is worth mentioning here that throughout the world of wine, makers of mediocre wine add sugar to cover up flaws and then add tartaric acid to reduce the perception of sweetness.
  • In good Riesling, by contrast, both the sweetness and the acidity are largely the result of the sweetness and acidity levels of the grapes themselves.

South Australia – Riesling from Clare Valley and Eden Valley.  Crisp and dry with characteristic lime notes.


Riesling from cool climate Margaret River in Western Australia may be bone dry with lemon, lime, and floral notes


The very cool climate of Finger Lakes region in New York State is making a reputation for dry Riesling.