Riesling is the superstar of German white wines and represents German wine culture like no other variety. The first references to its spread into the current area of Rheinhessen date from the late 15th and early 16th century. It is first documented in the year 1511. The origin of its name is still a mystery: does the word Riesling originate from the German word “verrieseln” (to wither without bearing fruit), from “reissend” (searing - a reference to its acidity), the term “edles Reis” (noble graft) or from “Rusling” (dark wood)? It is internationally renowned as “Rhine Riesling”. In Rheinhessen this variety currently occupies 3,769 hectares, which represents 14% of the total vineyards.
Riesling is a slow-ripening grape variety, typically with a pronounced, fruity acidity. It is predestined for the northernmost wine-growing areas with relatively cool climatic conditions where a long ripening period allows it to develop its fine fruity aromas and to ripen to perfection in the late autumn sunshine. It places great demands on its location but only modest demands on its soils. Depending on the site, the type of soil and the micro-climate, it produces extremely variably nuanced wines; therefore, this is the perfect variety to taste the terroir. Optimal conditions are provided by the heat-retaining stony, steep slopes along river valleys, such as those found in Rheinhessen at the Roter Hang in Nierstein or the Scharlachberg in Bingen.
Riesling wines are available in all quality levels and styles. Some of them are made in traditional wooden barrels. The use of stainless steel brings out the fine interplay of sweetness and acidity in young Riesling wines. Along with uncomplicated everyday wines, the variety offers premium wines of the Selection Rheinhessen and Großes Gewächs (comparable to grand cru) from the best vineyards in the region. The crown jewel of every Riesling vintage are the high-quality edelsüß (noble sweet) premium wines, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese or Eiswein, which occupy the high end of the range of German wines on the international market. The “typical” Riesling has aromas of peach and apricot or fine notes of apple. The palate is impressed by a racy, almost effervescent acidity.
Because of its fine fruitiness and effervescent acidity, Riesling is a popular choice for making sparkling wines. The big sparkling wine producers refine Riesling into German Sekt. Smaller sparkling wine cellars generally produce a Winzersekt based on the traditional method of bottle fermentation. A truly effervescent delight.
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