This white grape is the world’s tenth most common variety as of 2004, with 48,700 hectares planted across the world – and that has probably increased since then. Riesling originated in the Rhine region of Germany, where it continues to make up for a fifth of all planted vines in the country. It is similarly popular in Alsace, with around 3,350 hectares planted there. Due to its early ripening, it is suited best to cooler climates, with over-ripened Riesling losing its flavour. So there is little seen of Riesling in southern Europe and much of the warmer regions of the New World, unlike Germany, Austria and northern Italy, where it is far more abundant.
Riesling is usually produced as a varietal wine, and can be dry, semi-sweet, sweet or sparkling. It has a naturally high acidity, with floral, perfume-like aromas and a generally low level of alcohol. However, Riesling is very much a reflection of its terroir, and will produce very different wines depending on where it is planted. In the coolest climates of Germany, for example, it has notes of apple and tree fruit, often with stronger acidity and residual sugars. In Alsace, however, it tends towards more citrus and stone fruit notes. It can also create late harvest dessert wines with the help of botrytis cinerea (noble rot) or freezing (as with eiswein).
Riesling also ages very well, with a broad range of flavours that only truly express themselves after ageing as long as several decades.