Riesling – love it or hate it? A GUIDE TO THE RIESLING GRAPE AND ITS WINES I have long been in two minds about having more than one Riesling in the Wines With Attitude portfolio – in my experience people either love Riesling or hate it which is why I describe it as the Marmite grape (with apologies and also homage to the manufacturers of Marmite). But there are many different styles of Riesling wine that it is doing it a disservice not selling more than one plus I was long ago persuaded to by a new customer who was keen to get hold of some Andreas Bender Dajoar Zenit Riesling that he had had with friends in the Portland restaurant in London. I am so glad I did as it is a beautiful wine. And it is after all unfair to write off Riesling as a whole since it produces so many different types of wine. So in this blogpost I shed some light on the Riesling grape and its wide range of wines. WHERE CAN YOU FIND RIESLING? This white grape is also known as Johannisberg, Kleinriesling, Rheinriesling, Riesling Gelb and a host of other names but should not be confused with Riesling Italico or Welschriesling which are synonyms of a somewhat less-known grape. So versatile and hardy is the Riesling grape that it can be grown in many different regions around the world, producing a wide range of wine styles and flavours as it is also good at expressing its terroir. It grows best in cool climates and tolerates well cold winters. The location of the vines can have a huge impact on the style and flavours of the wines with cooler climate Rieslings producing more delicate green fruit & floral notes, warmer climate Rieslings generally being more peachy and richer in style. Germany is the homeland of Riesling with c. 45% of the world’s Riesling vineyards. It produces, some would argue, the best Riesling wines though there also are some poorer versions produced there as Germany tries, rather unsuccessfully, to convert the overseas wine-drinking public to their pride and joy. Riesling is grown throughout Germany though the Mosel and Pfalz regions produce the most. Mosel famous for its slate soils produces a light floral style of Riesling. The best sites there are considered to be the steepest sites with slate soils near the river where the grapes can benefit from maximum sunshine due to carefully positioned vines and reflections from the water’s surface. The reputation that German Riesling still has as a medium dry or even medium-sweet white wine is not really justified as most nowadays is dry or ‘trocken’. The USA, perhaps surprisingly is the second largest producer of Riesling with c.10% of the world’s Riesling vineyards and growing interest for Rieslings from California, Oregon and Washington State. Australia is gaining itself quite a good reputation for very dry, lime-flavoured Riesling – look for Clare Valley and Eden Valley Rieslings. In France Riesling is a permitted grape variety only in the Alsace region where the wines often have pronounced minerality. There has been a tendency for Alsace to add sugar to its wines to help boost the alcohol levels (rather than to sweeten them since they are vinified dry). Therefore Alsace Riesling is often more full-bodied than German Riesling.  New Zealand is developing its Riesling vineyards; it is its 6th most produced grape variety. New Zealand is producing both off-dry and dry wines – the Te Whare Ra Riesling D is Dry, the ‘D’ meaning dry (they also produce an ‘M’ version for medium-dry). Austria produces mostly dry Riesling but also very sweet, dessert wine. A little known fact is that Luxembourg also grows a small proportion of the world’s Riesling but then not so surprising given it lies close to the Mosel region. FLAVOUR PROFILE OF RIESLING It is partly Riesling’s ability to express its terroir well that makes it hard to generalise about one single flavour profile for its wines. Riesling wines can have one or more of the following – florals, minerality, fruit and spice. However one thing that all good Riesling has wherever it is produced is bracing acidity – just like Sauvignon Blanc. Even sweeter versions will not be sickeningly sweet as the sweetness should always be balanced by acidity. Rieslings aromatics can be quite concentrated. Distinct flavours that are usually recognisable include lime, green apples, pears and floral notes like jasmine and lime blossom especially when the wine is young, dry and from cooler regions.  As Riesling develops richer peach and even nectarine flavours dominate and/ or if it is from a warmer site tropical fruit. As they get older Rieslings get richer and a wider range of aromas and flavours come to the fore including honey, beeswax, spice and toast plus sometimes the distinctive petrol or kerosene aromas may develop. The petrol note, loved by some and detested by others,  is more likely to be found in better Riesling wines than in more commercial-style wines where grapes from higher-yielding vineyards are used. It is also detectable earlier in warm climate Rieslings. It should however always be subtle in any Riesling. According to Andreas Bender, producer of several Rieslings including the lovely Dajoar Zenit Riesling from the Mosel, Riesling needs some time in bottle to become rounder and for all the flavours to fully express themselves. I could see this in early 2019 when doing a vertical tasting with him of his 2015 and 2017 Zenit Rieslings; the 2017 needed a little more time to develop to its full potential. Give it another 12 months or so and it will match the 2015. Better winemakers such as Andreas aim to make the grape’s aromatic qualities show and therefore usually ferment the wine in stainless steel tanks. If oak is used it will be large vats and old oak to minimise the impact. Lees contact may also be used to give some Rieslings texture and richness which some may confuse with oak influence.