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New District launched Get to Know Wine with Riesling

Get to Know Grapes: Riesling

Riesling literally rocks. Planted widely around the world, it’s a thoroughly noble wine grape. German in origin, Riesling is prized for its floral aromatics, flavour spectrum that ranges from citrus to tropical fruit, eye-popping acidity, terroir-transmission, and propensity for immortality. Great Riesling can keep pace with fine Bordeaux in the cellar.

Grape growers love it because it’s winter hardy, and that’s why the grape is so well suited to northern latitudes, like ours in B.C. Although Riesling is a mid- to late-ripener, it manages to have loads of flavour, even when harvested early. It's also accommodating of different soils types, but makes the most compelling wines when grown in impoverished rocky vineyards, like fractured slates of Germany's Mosel region.  

Winemakers love Riesling because it’s so versatile. Styles can range from bone-crunchingly dry, off-dry, medium sweet, to fully, lusciously, decadently sweet. Riesling can be light-bodied, delicate and rain-water fresh, or richer and fiercely assertive. Riesling is seldom oaked.

A brilliant match for food, especially our west coast Pan-Asian cuisine, Riesling can handle seafood, meat, spice, tart or sweet flavours. Riesling’s racy acidity, whatever the sweetness level, is the secret sauce to masterful food and wine matches.

Riesling in British Columbia is globally admired (international Riesling experts have raved about our taut, expressive wines), and there is no question it’s a very serious grape for us. Plantings are still small, at just 440 acres out of almost 10,000 total acres of wine grapes. It’s well suited to all our provinces’ growing regions, from the Kootenays to Cowichan. B.C. makes glorious examples of all Riesling styles, including bone-crunchingly dry, bubbly, off-dry, medium sweet, and unctuous icewine.  It can be hard to guage the sweetness level in B.C. Riesling wines when you are surveying the store shelves, but the alcohol percentage can offer a helpful clue: 11 percent or lower usually means a little fruity sweetness in the wine, where as you can bet that 12.5 percent or higher will signal a dry version.

As of 2012, Riesling is the 18th most planted wine grape variety in the world, with 125,150 acres. Here’s the approximate plantings in countries where Riesling matters:

  • Germany – 55,436 acres (1st most planted grape)
  • Australia – 10,875 acres (5th most planted grape)
  • Alsace - 8,374 acres
  • Washington State - 8,005 acres
  • Austria – 4,631 acres
  • California – 3,831 acres
  • Hungary – 3,170 acres
  • New Zealand – 1,834 acres
  • Ontario  - 1,650 acres
  • New York State – 683 acres
  • British Columbia – 440 acres

At New District, we LOVE B.C. Rieslings. Here are five to try. Be adventuresome, and put them to work with spicy noodles, take-out sushi, or juicy pork chops.


 *Cover image: “Riesling” by Jon Oropeza – CC BY-SA 2.0

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