The Bibendum guide to Riesling


A lot of people are put off by Riesling. Pronouncing it can be a problem for a start (ree-zling). And then there are those preconceptions that it’s all cheap, sweet German plonk. But it’s not true! Look beyond the infamous blue bottle and there’s a diverse world of seriously exciting (and great value) white wine out there.

What is Riesling?

Riesling is a white grape variety that is famous for its energetic acidity and intense aromas. It ripens late, but is hardy, making it ideal for ‘late harvest’ styles of wine; when grapes stay on the vine late into the autumn, allowing sugars and flavours to become extremely concentrated before picking. Much like Chardonnay, Riesling creates wines that reflect their terroir, meaning a diverse range of flavours can be found in different regions of the world.

Where does it come from?

Because of its hardiness, Riesling thrives in cool-climate regions, where slow ripening allows sufficient time for aromas to develop fully, without the grapes losing their acidity or freshness. Some of the world’s most famous and desirable Rieslings come from Germany, Austria and the French region of Alsace. But you can also find excellent Rieslings in cool-climate New World regions like Australia’s Clare Valley, New Zealand’s Central Otago and Washington State in the USA.

What does it taste like?

In northern Europe, Riesling can exhibit delicate flavours of fresh grape and green apple when picked early, developing richer flavours of citrus, through to pineapple and apricot as it stays longer on the vine. These richer flavours are also typical of Rieslings grown in slightly warmer regions in the New World. Australian Rieslings are often said to have a distinctive lime flavour. Due to their high acidity and intense flavours, Rieslings can be very age-worthy, developing notes of honey, smoke and even petrol as they get older.

Winemakers rarely use techniques such as oak ageing or malolactic fermentation with Riesling, as these would mask those aromatic, primary fruit characteristics and soften the refreshing acidity for which Riesling is famous.

What should I eat with it?

Riesling can be made in a variety of styles from bone dry to seductively sweet, but always with those common characteristics of intense aroma and refreshing acidity. These qualities make Riesling a great food wine, a particularly successful pairing being spicy Asian food, which can otherwise dominate less intense, lower-acid wines.


Here are three of our favourite Rieslings, made in different styles around the world, and some ideas of what to eat with them:

Veal Schnitzel and RieslingMantlerhof Zehetnerin Riesling, Kremstal Austria

This is a classic example of Austrian Riesling packed with intense fruit aromas and balanced by beautiful acidity. Try with a classic veal schnitzel with succulent roast potatoes. 

Soft shell crab and RieslingForge Cellars Finger Lakes Riesling, New York State, USA

The unique microclimate of New York’s Finger Lakes has given it a growing reputation for making high quality Rieslings. Try this refreshing wine with Thai-style soft shell crab.

Caramelsed pears with RieslingStratus Riesling Ice wine, Niagara, Canada

Ice wine is made syrupy sweet by allowing the grapes to freeze on the vine, concentrating the sugars, while getting rid of excess water. Try with a dessert of caramelised pears.



Click here for more food pairing ideas with a range of delicious Rieslings.

20th June 2017

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