Pacific Rim
August 3, 2021 | wine | Pacific Rim

Drink Riesling All Summer: How to Tell How Sweet It Is

Even though Riesling wine has been around for several centuries, it is often an underappreciated wine. It is not the wine that is frequently ordered during dining or for celebrating a festive occasion, and, sadly, most wine drinkers are missing out on this special beverage. 

a fresh chilled glass of ice wine overlooking a vineyard

Riesling wines tend to be less sweet, have a little bit more alcohol, and feel heavier on the palate. Riesling is mass-produced in the Rhine region of Germany and other neighboring countries, like France and Austria. It was one of the first wines to be consumed by the German elite back in the 14th century. 

Since the 1970s, exports of Riesling wine to the North American market have increased chiefly because it is assumed to be sweet. But while Riesling may be a great wine, there is much more to this classic beverage than just tradition.

Is Riesling Wine Sweet?

In general, even though many people think of Riesling as a sweet wine, it is not. Even though the wine is made from one of the finest grapes in the world, the wine is more on the dry side or more acidic. This is not to say that there are no sweet Riesling wines - there are several. But one thing that was observed during the manufacturing process is that Riesling wine tends to taste much better with age; that is a common reason why many Riesling wines are stored for decades as they develop the unique aromatic petrol aroma. 

But the problem is that as the wine ages, all the sugar content gets converted into alcohol. Over several decades of storage, the original wine can transform into a complex beverage with all kinds of secondary flavors, such as ginger, honey, wax, mushrooms, and nutty flavors.

The Fermentation Process

To appreciate why Riesling wines are not so sweet means first understanding the manufacturing process. When the grapes are mashed and fermented, the breakdown includes a lot of sugar. Early on during the winemaking process, the wine will be sweet because of the high sugar content, but it will lack many other features of a great wine. 

As the fermentation continues, all the sugar is broken down into alcohol, which is the reason why Riesling wines tend to be medium- or full-bodied. Also, at this stage, all the substances released from the grape skin, including tannins and flavonoids, bring out the fruity flavor of the wine.

Which Riesling Wines Are Sweet?

In general, Riesling wines (Kabinett) made from grapes picked during the early part of the harvest tend to have low alcohol content and are light-bodied and dry.

Riesling wines (Spatlese) made from grapes picked during the later part of the season tend to have a full body and can be dry. The mild sweetness is often overridden by acidity.

Riesling wines made from “specially harvested” grapes (Ausles) or berry-selected harvest (Beerenaulese) tend to be fairly sweet and mild wines.

The sweetest Riesling wines (Trockenbeerenauslese) are the most expensive and quite tasty but have low alcohol content. 

Finally, there is Riesling ice wine made from frozen grapes. These wines tend to have a combination of sweetness and acidity and are always bubbly.

How Do I Tell If My Riesling Wine Is Sweet?

Read the label: The best way to tell if your Riesling is sweet, read the label. All wines will have a label that states the residual sugar (RS) and alcohol by volume (ABV). The RS is the measure of sugar left in the wine after the fermentation process. If all the sugar is converted into alcohol, the ABV will be high, and the RS will be low. 

On the other hand, if there is still some RS left in the wine, the ABV will tend to be on the low side, thus making the wine a little sweet. Therefore, if you want a sweet Riesling wine, choose one that has an ABV of 11% or lower and if you prefer high alcohol content, choose one with an ABV of more than 13.5%.

The 2018 Vin De Glacière Riesling uses a process that freezes the grapes and is then pressed frozen, resulting in approximately 36% sugar concentration.  The juice then goes through fermentation until the residential sugar reaches 16%.  You will notice the flavors of honey, pear, and jasmine in this sweet wine that pairs well with desserts.  This is one of the sweetest Riesling wines.

Know Where to Get Your Sweet Riesling Wine All Summer Long

To learn more about sweet Riesling wines, go online to Pacific Rim and Company.  Pacific Rim is passionate about Riesling wines, not just the sweet but all the varieties.  The 2019 Sweet Riesling is a favorite with its peach and pineapple notes.  The wine has 7% residual sugar with a fresh, fruity, and lively feel due to the carbon dioxide we leave behind from the process.  It’s great just as an aperitif or to pair with spicy cuisine.


Commenting has been turned off.


Recent Posts