This king of white wine varieties is thought to historically derive from a wild vine that flourished in the Rhine Valley, and has been selected and developed over the years. In Austria, the varietal ripens along the Danube
The earliest documentation of the name was in 1435, in Rüsselsheim.
The variety was probably taken from wild vines on the Oberrhein (the Upper Rhine). Roter Riesling is a red grape variation, a bud mutation of the Weißer Riesling. The Weißer Riesling is not related to the Welschriesling variety.
This variety was brought from the Rhine to the Danube in Austria and is now – next to the Grüner Veltliner – the most important white wine variety in the Wachau. In premium vineyard sites, especially in the wine growing regions Wachau, Kremstal, Traisental, Kamptal as well as Wien (Vienna), Wagram and Weinviertel, the Riesling yields highly ripe grapes because it is a late-maturing variety. The vineyard area for Riesling increased steadily between 1999 and 2020. In Germany, Riesling is the most widely grown white variety for all quality levels of wine.
Important ampelographic features
medium-sized, circular, with five lobes, coarse surface, very hairy underside
small but dense, cylindrical, shouldered, usually no wings, small yellowish-green grapes with scar marks
Significance & conditions
Riesling is a world-renowned variety, that along with Grüner Veltliner enjoys great prominence and importance in the winegrowing regions along the Danube river and its tributaries, an area quite rich in weathered primary rock soils. There is good reason that Riesling is called the king of white wines.
The late ripening grape is highly demanding in the vineyards, and is sensitive to grape stalk necrosis, stalk rot and grape Botrytis. The Botrytis is mainly undesirable - except for noble rot, for Auslese wines - because it can ruin the typical varietal aromas.
Area under vine in Austria
(as a proportion of the variety’s total area)
Characteristics of the wine
Young Riesling wines exude charming fruitiness and flavour, and can develop into great and complex wines through aging. For these, notes of stone fruit are dominant and include peach, apricot and exotic fruits. Wines especially from the terroirs of the Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal and Traisental reflect a minerality reminiscent of slate or flint. Riesling ripens slowly and reaches the highest quality as aged wines with rose-like scent. Depending on the level of ageing, they develop a pleasurable petrol tone, something that perhaps not all wine consumers like. When the late harvest grapes are infected with noble rot, then special wines are the result – Auslese and Beerenauslese styles with outstanding quality.
Source varietal specifications: Höhere Bundeslehranstalt und Bundesamt für Wein- und Obstbau (Federal College and Federal Office for Viticulture, Oenology and Fruit Growing) in Klosterneuburg, “Austria’s Qualitätswein grape varieties and their clones“ („Österreichische Qualitätsweinrebsorten und deren Klone“), 2nd, reviewed edition, September 2015
Source area under vine: Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism according to IACS (as at 31 May 2022)