Riesling - The grape that made Germany famous in the wine industry.
From dry to sweet styles, riesling has the ability to express its characteristics wherever it is made. Riesling is usually a very aromatic white grape. It has a pronounced fruity and floral smell like no other grape. Riesling is usually highly acidic and is fantastic for ageing for long period of time. Ageing a riesling in a bottle can help develop very interesting flavours - Honey, toast, petrol, smoke.
Most regions in Germany have a cool continental climate, with the exception of warmer climate in South Baden. Wet summers and cool continental climate gives the grapes a slow ripening period, then the grapes ripen in low rain fall autumn. This gives plenty of time for the grapes to build up enough sugar while retaining their acidity. The weather conditions vary annually. In drier autumns, more sweet wines are made (from noble rot). Almost all the best vineyard sites in Germany are located on steep slopes (South/South-East facing) and sometimes near a river, maximising sunlight and heat. These vineyards' grapes have to be hand harvested, hence expensive labour.
Riesling pairs exceptionally well with spicy food because of its sweetness and acidity. The most famous rieslings are from Germany, Austria, France, Australia, and United States.
In Germany - Wines are categorised according to the sugar weight (sugar level in the grapes). The sweetness increases down the list
Qualitatswein riesling (basic) - Light-bodied, dry and fruity
Kabinett riesling - Light-bodied, medium dry, green fruits, and low alcohol
Spatlese riesling (late-harvest) - Medium-bodied, medium sweet, more intense flavour
Auslese riesling (ripe late-harvest) - Even more body, sweeter than spatlese (although Auslese can be either medium or sweet)
Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese - Sweet wine made from noble rot
Eiswein (Icewine) - Premium sweet wines made from frozen grapes
These are the main regions for riesling grape in Germany -
Mosel - Light-bodied riesling, low alcohol, medium sweetness, and high acidity (Kabinett and Spatlese)
Rheingau - Medium-bodied riesling
Pfalz (close to Alsace) - Medium-bodied riesling
Baden - Most southern and warmest region in Germany. Produces full bodied and high alcohol wines.