How to Make Riesling - Winemaking Tips for the Micro-Winery - The Many Styles of Riesling

Riesling is revered the world over for its versatility. The aromatic white wine grape can be made in various styles – often with a focus on sweetness levels. The possible pairings with food are wide-ranging, thus so are the ways Riesling can be made. It is because of these possibilities that I love making Riesling.

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If you aren’t familiar with Riesling, set up a tasting with friends. Find the myriad styles available. Supermarkets will have a few inexpensive, low alcohol, off-dry Rieslings. A wine shop is a better place to look, the proprietor is likely dedicated to finding more unique versions of Riesling than the larger chain markets. If possible, focus on having one of each style represented: dry, off-dry, medium sweet, sweet and luscious.

Now, let’s find some grapes. Establish contact with your local grape growers association and get in touch with any growers who have Riesling. Arrange to harvest your grapes. It is best to establish this relationship early in the year, shortly after fruit set (June).

Visit the vineyard regularly to monitor the vintage. Everyone’s preferred ripeness level varies. Essentially, what you are looking for is a subtle shift in the acidity (@ about 3.00 pH) and a development of aromas (oil, mineral, white peach) at about 22 Brix.

At the Winery

When the grapes arrive at the winery, they should be gently pressed to about 150 Gal/Ton. Adding sulfur at 40 ppm. helps to retain Riesling’s aromatics. Adding pectolytic enzymes at 25 mL/Ton aids the settling of the vineyard lees. The must (juice) should be cold settled at about 45ºF for a minimum of one day.

While the must settles, a comprehensive analysis, including Brix, pH, and TA (Titratable Acidity) should be done. Barring anything unexpected, lets suppose we have a must that is 3.1 pH and 22 Brix with a TA of about 8. These are generally “good” numbers for a light, aromatic white wine.

Let’s backtrack to the tasting. There were several styles of Riesling, including dry, slightly sweet, and sweeter.  How can we make our own version of each wine from one grape juice?