For Mount Palomar the month of May is a perfect time to bottle White Riesling after an extended slow cold fermentation that increases the wine’s fruit elements. Professionally as a winemaker I must maintain an appreciation for all types of wine. However I have very distinct memories of enjoying Riesling wines as a younger man and these wines continue to be particularly dear to me. The varietal is well known for its’ characteristic floral elements and often have tastes of stone fruit. Americans tend to think of Riesling only as sweet wines. These medium sweet wines are wonderful; however there remains a much larger world of Rieslings to explore.
Fact: DNA finger printing show that Riesling is closely related to Chardonnay. They are sibling hybrids.
Riesling is well associated with Germany and thus is assumed to be the place of origin, but in reality no one really knows where the grape originated. The vine is prone to bunch rot and can be particularly difficult to cultivate in areas with frequent summer rains so it may have originated in a dry climate similar to California. The grape tends to have high acid levels that make it a good choice to produce as a sweet wine. When the wine is produced without residual sugar these same elevated acids also make a dry wine taste drier. The clusters are small making harvesting tedious, however the small berry size increases the intensity of flavors and aromas. The vine can require more attention than other varieties, but the wine is worth the extra effort.
Medium Sweet Riesling: This is the most popular style in the United States. Generally the residual sugar is between two and four percent. This wine is not intended for extended aging and is best consumed less than four years old.
Dessert Riesling: These are super sweet and would include ice wines, late harvest, and botrytis wine. These wines are harvested or treated in a way that raises the sugar content. They are often allowed extended aging. The flavor components are very intense.
Dry Riesling: These wines have very little or no residual sugar. This class of Riesling can vary from light and crisp similar in style to a Pinot Grigio to big and full like a well oaked Chardonnay with a distinct Riesling character.
As the weather gets warmer and the summer heats up, Riesling is a refreshing wine choice. Visit us at Mount Palomar Winery and compare our “Riesling” at 3% residual sugar and our neutral barrel aged “Dry Riesling” at 0% residual sugar.