Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Riesling has for long been arguably the world’s most undervalued, often mis-spelt, and certainly most often mispronounced grape. (‘Reece-ling’ is correct.) Riesling is the great vine variety of Germany and could claim to be the finest white grape variety in the world on the basis of the longevity of its wines and their ability to transmit the characteristics of a vineyard without losing Riesling’s own inimitable style; in this sense it is very much more like Cabernet Sauvignon than Chardonnay (although dna profiling in Austria in 1998 revealed a parent–offspring relationship with gouais blanc, a parent of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir et al.; see pinot). Riesling has suffered, in an era when oak and heft have been considered the height of fashion, because it is no friend of barriques, and its wines tend to be relatively low in alcohol. In the 1960s and 1970s, the name Riesling was debased by being applied to a wide range of white grape varieties of varied and often doubtful quality, the ultimate backhanded compliment. Rieslings were also associated with sweetness (another black mark in the modern era) and lack the please-all blandness of, say, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.