Pronunciation: [REEZ-ling; REES-ling]
Riesling is considered one of the world's great white wine grapes and produces some of the very best white wines. It's a native of Germany, where it's believed to have been cultivated for at least 500 and possibly as long as 2,000 years. Riesling wines are delicate but complex, and characterized by a spicy, fruity flavor, flower-scented bouquet and long finish. Riesling is vinified in a variety of styles ranging from dry to very sweet. In Germany, these sweet wineswhich are usually affected by botrytis cinereaare graded in ascending order of sweetness as Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese. California winemakers now produce high-quality German-style Rieslings, which are lighter, more delicate, and slightly to medium-sweet. Because the name "Riesling" is used in many ways, it's sometimes difficult to find wines truly made from this variety. In California, for instance, Johannisberg Riesling is the true Riesling, whereas Gray Riesling and Emerald Riesling are actually other varieties. A bottle of California wine labeled simply "Riesling" usually means that the wine's made from one of the lesser varieties, not Johannisberg Riesling. Riesling is all peaches and honey, perfect for spicy food, charcuterie and game birds like roast duck and goose. Great Riesling has a backbone of petrol (it sounds crazy, but it’s true, and it works in the context) and minerality to keep it from being a total sugar festival.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.