We couldn’t be happier about this year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference in the Finger Lakes!
It was a great opportunity to taste a variety of Riesling wines from an area with which we are not so well versed…. but to also to have the chance to share our Riesling with the community dating all the way back to 1990 (posts to come).
In honor of our time spent in the Finger Lakes, we thought it’d be great to show a brief overview of how Riesling differs in each region and what a drinker can expect from each.
But first, the variety itself.
The Riesling grape originated in Germany where the highest concentration of plantings still exists. It is a late ripening variety and is capable of producing many different styles of wine ranging from bone dry to botrytis affected sweet wines. Quite often, Riesling has been called the “king of grapes” as it is a wonderful partner for many types of cuisine, ages beautifully, and is quite tasty, among other things.
Riesling is a sturdy grape that prefers soils that drain well which explains why the best examples are generally come from soils of slate, schist, or limestone, etc.
To be honest, we aren’t so well-versed in Finger Lakes Riesling, so this conference was a great way to get to know the region better, but also understand one of our favorite varieties fully.
The Finger Lakes hosts 335.2 hectares of Riesling vineyards and is, by far, the largest grown variety in the region, doubling that of the next highest, Chardonnay.
Finger Lakes winemakers are quite proud of their Riesling, and rightfully so. Though, to us, it appeared the majority contained at least a hint of residual sugar – ranging to quite sweet – there are also bone dry examples and the nifty marketing folk of the region have even created an index found on the back of many bottles so consumers understand which expression they are tasting.
Some facts from their website:
- 220,000 cases of Riesling
- Strong, regional aromatic whites with a focus on Riesling.
- The average producer makes 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 where the Riesling is planted 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.
Riesling is just 4.1% of our production, but within the quality wine growing areas there are 1,863ha of vines. Then again we must consider that we are speaking of an entire country, though our wine growing area only represents a small portion.
Riesling from Austrian is dry 99% of the time, with a few exceptions that may or may not include later ripening periods and botrytis inclusion.
The primary region for Austria is Neiderosterreich in the areas of the Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal, Vienna, Wagram, Weinviertel, and Traisental. The best soils for Riesling in Austria include weathered primary rock soils such as limestone, and schist.
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.
Alas, Austrian Riesling is the second-most important white grape in Austria despite its small plantings and it’s something that winemakers take great pride in producing (as they should!)
All-in-all, there isn’t a “better” style of Riesling out there and considering producer variation it’d be impossible to make a parallel in that way. What’s more important is that the grape, perhaps even the King of grapes, is finding a home in suitable climates around the world, which can only be a positive for it.
Riesling is still a large form of confusion for many consumers – is it dry? is it sweet? Will it rip my teeth off with its acid??…possibly.
Alas, we were truly privileged to be able to taste with so many great winemakers of the region and thank all of those for their hospitality and their dedication to one of our favorite grapes. Prost!