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Learn What Makes a Riesling a Riesling

Let us start off by pointing out this important tidbit: Not all riesling is sweet. Now read it out loud so you won’t forget.


Not. All. Riesling. Is. Sweet.


That said, there are sweet rieslings, of course. Most of your California rieslings, unless otherwise noted, are going to be sweet. These rieslings tend to have notes of apple, peach, apricot, and honey.

All Hail German Rieslings

Germany is the riesling king. With German riesling, you really have to pay attention to the label. Where the grape is from will indicate the flavor profile of the wine.


For example, Mosel rieslings have more of an apple and floral character. Rhine rieslings, like Rheingau, Rheinhessen, and Rheinpflatz, have more citrus, with a richer apricot, peach and spice taste.

Harvesting Times Determine Sweetness

To produce different levels of sweetness, German rieslings are harvested at different times. Kabinett is harvested first and is the driest style of German rieslings. Spatlese is then harvested, producing a slightly sweeter wine, but still not as sweet as most American versions of the grape.


Auslese is harvested next, producing the sweet wine that many people have come to expect of a Riesling. Beyond these are beerenauslese, trokenbeerenauslese, and eiswine, which are all dessert wines.


Other dry rieslings can be found in Alsace and Australia. Rieslings from Alsace are bone dry with notes of apples and minerals. Australian rieslings often have notes of lemon and minerality.