Riesling Wine…What’s Not to Like

Riesling Wine…What’s Not to Like

by Wendy VanHatten


If you think all Riesling wine is sweet…you haven’t tasted Riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York or from Austria.

As a grape, Riesling originated in Germany, where the highest concentration of plantings still exists. It is a late ripening variety and capable of producing many different styles of wine ranging from bone dry to wines that can be quite sweet.

When you look at the ground where Riesling is grown, you wonder how it can survive, let alone produce any wine. Riesling, a sturdy grape, prefers soils that drain well, such as ones consisting of slate, schist, or limestone.

The Finger Lakes, in New York, has 335.2 hectares of Riesling vineyards and is, by far, the largest grown variety in the region. Some interesting facts from the area include:

  • 220,000 cases of Riesling are grown with the average producer making 2-3 styles of Riesling wine a year.
  • The Finger Lakes is home to over 200 Riesling brands.
  • In the Finger Lakes, the soils are primarily shale which was deposited over 10,000 years ago when a giant glacier melted. This makes the ideal soil conditions for the variety and the continental climate of the region is also a great match.


In Austria, by contrast, Riesling is just 4.1% of the production, but within the quality wine growing areas there are 1,863 hectares of vines. Riesling from Austrian is dry 99% of the time.

Austrian Riesling is best known for its minerality, which showcases notes of slate or flint, but also boasts a lovely floral character and signature fruitiness. Unlike some other world-famous examples of Riesling, it isn’t very common that Austrian Riesling develops the “petrol-like” note as it ages, though it certainly does occur.

Can this grape find a home in suitable climates around the world? Most definitely. Will you be confused by the taste? Probably. Is it dry? Is it sweet? Is it full of acid? Possibly all of those.

Will it become your favorite? Hard to tell. I can tell you it’s definitely one of mine…at least the dry Riesling. Probst.

About Wendy VanHatten

Wendy VanHatten is editor-in-chief for Prime Time Living, a published author, international travel writer, wine, food, and travel editor, and professional editor.