Is Riesling a Wine or a Grape? Why the Petrol Aromas?

For those who are quite new to wine or simply enjoy a drop of plonk (as our dear Keith Floyd used to refer to it as) without paying too much attention to what you are drinking, then maybe you might question Riesling being a wine or a grape. Some will see Riesling as simply meaning a German wine or a place in Germany, I have heard people think the word is the name of the producer and some consider it to mean the style of wine in that it is sweeter.

So what is Riesling?

Hopefully, this is not where you will stop reading, but I need to declare now that Riesling is a grape. Here are some facts about Riesling:

  • White (green) grape variety
  • Used in the making mostly of still white wines and also sparkling
  • Commonly grown in Germany and France (Alsace)
  • It is stated as being an aromatic grape (floral aroma)
  • It’s history dates back to the early 15th century
  • It originated in the Rhine region
  • It is a cooler climate grape though can be grown with care in warmer climates

How do I pronounce the word Riesling?


What does a Riesling wine taste like?

As I write this my mouth is watering thinking about all the great Riesling wines I have enjoyed and that unmistakable character it holds. Of course, the end result in your glass can vary due to the winemaker, the style, the age, the region, the country and where the Riesling wine originates from, though in most occasions it will be highly recognisable from aromas and flavours such as:

  • Aromas – Floral, peach, green fruits, jasmine/honeysuckle/honey, gasoline/petrol.
  • Flavours – Green fruits, lime, floral, honeysuckle, tropical fruits, peach, apricot


Why does Riesling smell like petrol?

Many people will gather aromas and a taste of ‘petrol’ from a Riesling wine – Do not fear that your wine tasting skills are poor as I get this also as do many other wine connoisseurs. It is not a fault, neither does it mean that additional chemicals have been added to the wine – Petrol aromas from Riesling is due to a natural cause of the compound 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene (TDN) that comes about from the wine juice ageing process.

Are all Riesling wines sweet?

Typically a Riesling wine will share the characters of the grape in that it gives a sweeter expression of floral and complex fruits. There are though different ‘sweetness’ styles to suit many palates. The styles include:

  • Dry
  • Medium Dry
  • Medium Sweet
  • Sweet

Riesling – Sparkling Wines:

The Riesling grape is used in the making of many sparkling wines. Mostly these originate from Germany (Sekt) and in France via the Alsace region (Crémant). The grape can also be seen used in other parts of the old world and new world wine regions. Wines can be 100% Riesling or have a percentage of Riesling added to the blend. Still and sparkling wines are also grown and produced in the following countries: Luxembourg, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia,…

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