Finger Lakes Rieslings

The Riesling grape is widely presumed to have German origins, but today the grape is grown and made into high-quality wines across the world from Washington to Australia. It’s a cold blooded grape that thrives on bone-chilling winters. Riesling is almost always used to produce single varietal wines and unlike other white grapes like Chardonnay, is very seldom oaked. Similar to Pinot Noir, Riesling is a wine that is treasured for its expressive nature and for its capacity to reflect terroir.

Riesling, in addition to being rather vigorous, is also extremely dynamic and can be made into several styles of wine: dry, semi-sweet, sweet, dessert, and sparkling. Whether a Riesling falls under each of these styles depends on the amount of sugar present in the grapes at the time they are harvested. The longer the grapes stay on the vine after they’ve ripened, the higher the levels of sugar in the wine. On Vine Talk, we tasted wines from three of these categories:

Dry (Kabinett): Rieslings that are produced from grapes that have just fully ripened.Typically, dry Rieslings are crisp, bright, and light with flavors of pears and apples or peaches and apricots and a floral nose.

VT Tasted:
Thirsty Owl Wine Company Dry Riesling 2009 – $14.95
Keuka Lake Vineyards Dry Riesling 2009 -$25.00

Also Try:
Rieslings from Australia. These Rieslings have been on the rise and receiving lots of attention from wine critics who hail them as the next big thing. Australian Rieslings are often as dry as they come with pronounced floral perfume, lots of citrus flavors, and a stiff backbone.

• Semi-Sweet, Semi-Dry, or Off-Dry (Spätlese): Rieslings that produced from grapesthat have been harvested fairly late and left to ripen on the vine for a longer period of time. These wines are usually sweeter and fruiter than dry Rieslings and tend to have a fuller-body.

VT Tasted:
Red Newt Cellards Riesling “Circle” Label 2009 – $12.00
Chateau LaFayette Reneau Riesling Semi-Dry 2009 – $14.99
Fox Run Vineyards Riesling 2009 – $13.99

Also Try:
Rieslings from Washington. They tend to be lighter and have a tangy minerality that makes them very food-friendly and drinkable.

• Sweet (Auslese): Rieslings that are made from very ripe grapes and, sometimes, grapes that have been affected by noble rot. These wines are very full-bodied and very sweet with an equally high acidity to balance out all the sugar.

VT Tasted:
Martini Reinhardt Selection Riesling Trockenbeeren 2008 – $100.00

Also try:
Rieslings from Alsace, France. These Rieslings are rich and round that havebeen called thick and mouth-coating. Despite their luscious texture, these wines have bright acidity, a higher alcohol content, and sweet ripe fruit flavors.

For more information on the episode featuring these wines, click: Episode Guide: Ranking Rieslings from the Finger Lakes.

Photo of Riesling grapes courtesy of