Riesling once again attracts more attention after the Chardonnay craze of the 1980s and 90s. While native to Germany, where it has been manufactured since the 14th century, Riesling is now produced in almost all wine regions. Reisling's mixture of sweetness and acidity produces wines that complement many foods and age well. Riesling grapes produce dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines. More so than other grapes, Riesling grapes are heavily influenced by the local soils and so express the characteristics of local regions.
Many regions in Germany produce Riesling, but three really stand out: The Mosel, Rheingau and Rheinhessen. The Mosel is the top Riesling producer, with wines that are a little sweet, low in alcohol and highly acidic. Producers to look for include Erste Lage, Dr. Loosen, Markus Molitor, Selbach-Oster, J.J. Prûm, Dr. Thanisch and Von Schubert. Rieslings of the Rheingau, considered the wine's home, are dry, also acidic and more full-bodied than those from The Mosel, with a cherry fragrance. Look for wines from Kloster Eberbach, Schloss Johannisberg and Johannisberger Klaus. Rheinhessen is Germany's largest wine region, producing medium-bodied dry wines that are lower in acidity than the other two regions. Look for Niersteiner Oelberg, Niersteiner Hipping and Niersteiner Orbel.
Alsace, which has changed hands between France and Germany a few times, is now French, and is the only region in France that can grow Riesling grapes. About one-fifth of the grapes grown in Alsace are Riesling, and although French, most wine laws in the region are still German. The wines produced here are usually dry and higher in alcohol than those from Germany. Many producers in the region enjoy the Gran Cru classification for exceptional quality. Look for wines from Sommerberg, Goldert "Clos St. Imer," Schoenenbourg, Schlossberg, Muenchberg and Zind Humbrecht.
Riesling is grown in several regions in the U.S.A., brought here by German immigrants in the 19th century. The type of Riesling grown in the U.S. is Johannisberg Riesling. The Finger Lakes area in New York produces dry, light-bodied Rieslings, as well as Riesling ice wines. Look for Dr. Konstantin Frank and Anthony Road Wine. Washington is the largest producer of Riesling in the U.S.A., producing slightly sweet wines with a peach fragrance. Look for Pacific Rim, Hogue and Poet's Leap. Oregon is a small producer of Riesling, producing dry to slightly sweet, acidic wines. Try Bridgeview Vineyards, Troon Vineyard and Viento.
Canada's wine producers, in B.C. and Ontario, commonly use Riesling for producing world-class ice wines, where the grapes must legally freeze on the vines before being picked. Ontario is the major producer of ice wine, almost equaling Germany's output. Ontario also produces many dry to slightly sweet wines. Look for Henry of Pelham, Thirty Bench and Hillebrand Estate. Apart from ice wines, B.C. also produces table and sparkling wines. Look for Mission Hill and Inniskillin