Riesling is one of the oldest German varieties, original from the Rhiengau region. The name Riesling might come from “reissen”, which originally meant “divide”, then “carve”, “cut” or “engrave” and finally “break” or “tear out”. There is no further explanation for this etymology, but maybe the first meaning “divide” can refer to the way grapes are divided through the fingers.
Riesling variety is very resistant to cold weather, thanks to its hard vine shoots; however it has to be planted in the very best places so it can ripen completely and achieve a good performance. When its location is the appropriate, Riesling wines can be of extremely high quality even though its output is also high. It has late budding and therefore it avoids many spring frosts. Its ripening is also mid-late, but anyway it depends on the kind of wine that the producer wants to elaborate. Riesling can endure well downy mildew and is moderately sensitive to powdery mildew and botrytis cinerea.
Rieslingwines usually have a low alcoholic degree, but a high acidity and extract. This variety reflects the inner nature of the land where it is grown; hence it is difficult to speak in generalities about its taste and usual character. Wines can be floral, fruity, mineral and spiced. Nevertheless, this variety always yields the longest-live wines in the world, wines that age as much as a red Bourdeaux wine, without losing its qualities.
In France, Riesling is only authorised in Alsace, where harvests are traditionally chaptalized and the wines produced are dry still ones. These French Riesling wines have more body than the German ones. Very rarely sweet wines are produced with Riesling: Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles. The best Alsace wineries are: Marcel Deiss, Hugel, Josemeyer, Kreydenweiss, André Ostertag, Trimbach, Weinbach and Zind-Humbrecht.
In Germany, Riesling is grown in the wine regions of Pfalz, Nahe, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheinhessen, Rheingau and Wüttemberg. The best region for this variety, where it reaches its peak of quality and where wine is most unique is the cold area of Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, where it can have a relatively late ripening, in the steep slopes of slate soil over the Rhin. Wines produced here have low alcoholic degree and very high acidity so it takes years in bottle for the wine to sweeten and easy up its strong character.
As far as all the other German regions are concerned, Riesling wines from Rheingau are straighter and slightly more mellow, Riesling wines from Nahe are more nervous and sometimes with grapefruit notes, in Rheinhessen the style differs greatly from mature Riesling wines to others full of tension, in Pfalz, Riesling wines tend to be bland, mellow and structured, while WürttembergRieslings are fresh and light.
Some of the recommended wineries are: Dr. Bürklin Wolf and Friedrich Becker in Pfalz; Wittman y Kühling Gillot in Rheinhessen; Georg Breuer and Peter Jakob Kühn in Rheingau; Hermann Dönnhoff and Emrich Schönleber in Nahe; Egon Müller, Geltz Zilliken,Maximin Grünhaus, Fritz Haag and J.J. Prüm in Mosel-Saar-Ruwer; Ratzenberger in Mittelrhein; and Rudolf Fürst in Franken.