What is Riesling?

Ask wine writers for their favourite variety and the one many will name is Riesling. The reason is its capacity to produce great wines across the world, all of them distinctively identifiable as Riesling.

In Germany, forget any memories of warm Liebfraumilch. The delicate, low alcohol wines of the Mosel have a unique apple freshness. In the Rheingau, the top wines have a piercing steeliness. Above all Germany produces outstanding sweet wines: Trockenbeerenauslese Rieslings from grapes that have been affect by botrytis ('noble rot'), and Eiswein ('icewine') from grapes that are picked and pressed while frozen. Ontario, Canada and South Africa also produce small quantities of luscious sweet rieslings.

In Europe Alsace and Austria also produce excellent dry Rieslings, wines that are full-bodied with a good undertow of alcohol.

In the New World, the cool-climate regions of Australia, especially the Clare and Eden Valleys, have led the way. Their pure, lime-zesty bone dry styles have converted a new generation of wine drinkers to the grape.

Main characteristics

Colour: white; varying from pale with green highlights to the deepest gold

Body: light to full bodied

Tastes: from zesty green apples to a very intense luscious sweetness

AKA: White Riesling, Rhine Riesling

Spotter's guide: Germany; Austria; France: Alsace; Eastern Europe; Australia; New Zealand; USA: Chile, Washington; Canada

Often blended with: rarely blended

Keep or drink? Drink Riesling very young for entrancing pure fruit and zestiness; keep the best, especially the sweet wines and allow them to blossom. As it ages Riesling develops a characteristic hint of lime, or kerosene (sounds odd, but it IS delicious)

Price range: £4.99 upwards