Getting to know
Riesling wine

Riesling (reese-ling), indigenous to Germany, the grape thrives in a cool climate. While Germany is known for producing stunning expressions, the grape grows all over the world giving the Riesling wine lover an array of styles. From still to sparkling, dry to sweet, it offers endless opportunities for discovery.
Generally a single varietal wine, Riesling rarely sees oak. Its natural flavor profile shows apple, citrus, and stone fruits. Dominant flavors on the nose and palate include lime, lemon, white peach, green apple, beeswax, jasmine, the grape signature petroleum, and wet slate. Riesling wine tends to have a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) as well.

What separates Riesling from other white wines is its floral aroma, aging potential, and unique balance of sweetness and acidity.

What to know about the Riesling Grape

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Unfermented sugars in a finished wine, measured by grams of sugar per liter. The cause is related to the yeast as some sugar cannot be consumed by yeast.

Riesling gets its aging potential from high levels of acidity while its noteworthy residual sugar preserves its freshness. If you come across an older bottle, definitely give it a try. You’ll be rewarded with a fascinating, often unexpected flavor profile. And, tuck some bottles away for interesting finds down the road.  Riesling is one of the most widespread and food-friendly wines. The varietal is a favorite in the wine trade – and particularly with winemakers – due to its complexity, aromatics, and fascinating evolution in the bottle.

Where to find the Riesling Grape

Styles vary by climate. Rieslings from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand with warmer growing conditions result in a slightly sweeter and less acidic wine. In contrast, Riesling wines produced in cooler European regions have a drier flavor profile. Well known Riesling growing regions include Mosel, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, and Pfalz in Germany, Alsace, Eden Valley in Australia, Finger Lakes, Columbia Valley (Washington State). Top producing countries are Germany, Australia, France, and the USA.

riesling types & STyles

Riesling wine styles are dominated by a spectrum of sweet to dry, the result of many factors, including climate. Cooler climates, such as Germany and the Finger Lakes in New York, give higher levels of acidity than warmer climates such as California.

German and Californian Rieslings tend to be sweeter, while French and New York varieties tend to be drier.

German Riesling Sweetness Levels

  • Trocken = Dry
  • Halbtrocken = Half-dry
  • Feinherb = Off-dry
  • Lieblich Spätlese / Auslese = Semi-sweet
  • Beerenauslese = Sweet

how to enjoy riesling wine

Riesling Wine Pairing

Riesling is a powerful gastronomic wine with its high levels of acidity and low alcohol. Dry Rieslings are well suited to shellfish and classic preparations of fish, pork and poultry, as well as cream sauces. 

Medium-dry Rieslings are terrific with spicy Asian fusion cuisine, smoked fish, and salty cheeses.

Medium-sweet Rieslings pair beautifully with rich, spicy Indian dishes or dishes or curries. Sweet Rieslings pair well with spicy Indian and Thai food. 

See more food and wine pairing ideas in Carpe Travel’s Food & Wine Pairing Section.

Practical Tips for Drinking Riesling Wine

Glassware: In Alsace, Riesling is pretty consistently served in glasses with a small bowl (both in height and width). However, it is so aromatic that many swear by large-bowled Burgundy glasses to really open up the nose.

Aging: Riesling wine ageablity is a rabbit hole in and of itself. But remember that wines with the high levels of acidity have great aging potential. Like with any age worthy varietal, factors like vintage characteristics, winemaking style, age of vines, etc. weigh into the potential longevity. 

Bottle Prices: An average bottle of Riesling costs between $10 – $22.

When is the Right Mood for riesling Wine?

Date Night

Vegan Dinner

Book Club

Girlfriend Calls

Pre-Dinner Drink

Hostess Worthy

Gemini Parties

Italian Night

Vermont - Riesling Sign - Champlain Island Winery credit Vermont Department of Tourism
Photo Provided by Vermont Department of Tourism


Looking for recommendations on Riesling wines?

Maia Parish

Carpe Travel collaborated with Maia Parish to compile the grape varietal overviews. Maia Parish is an award-winning events producer, sommelier, wine judge, and media consultant. She lives in Denver, Colorado and likes to eat copious amounts of food. You can find her here