Welschriesling – surprisingly versatile!
It’s not our obvious favourite, the traditional Welschriesling. But what we do like are the newer versions of it, light and refreshing whites that whet the palate and quench your thirst. Beth to Grüner Veltliner’s Jo, it also makes the perfect spritzer wine!
The exact origins of the WR, some say it came from Croatia, some lean towards Italy, but it grows well all over.
What we do know is that with 11% of the total white wine surface it is the second most common grape variety in Austria. It follows the Grüner Veltliner and is considered a typical Austrian white wine.
In spite of its name, the Welschriesling has nothing in common with a Riesling. And if they happen to grow in the same region, the Riesling is referred to as Rheinriesling to avoid confusion.
This grape grows well on most soils and as it ripens quite late, it has more acidity in cooler climates. WR is hardy plant, not susceptible to rot and pests. Its strength means it can be harvested late to produce sweet wines.
As a cool climate white wine, Welschriesling is a crisp and light with hints of citrus, green apple and stone fruit. Its simple character means it is perfect to drink young, and the low alcohol content makes it an ideal summer white. This type of Welschriesling is mainly produced in the Burgenland around the Neusiedlersee, in the Steiermark and in the Weinviertel.
As mentioned above, WR is a strong grape suitable for both late harvest and noble rot (botrytis) wines. In German they are called “Spätlese” and Trockenbeerenauslese, deliciously semi-sweet and sweet dessert wines. The typical acidity of the grape prevents the sweet wines from getting too sticky and cloying. This ensures a lively and exciting dessert wine with flavours of honey, caramel and ripe fruits. These wines are almost solely produced in the Burgenland around the Neusiedlersee. and can be stored for many years.
Welschriesling and food
The young, crisp WR is an excellent wine to drink as an aperitif on its own in summer. In Austria it is actually often drunk as a ‘spritzer’; wine mixed with soda water, an immensely popular summer drink here. As it is a light wine with subtle flavours, it goes well with salads as well as simple fare such as light fish and chicken.
The sweet version of the Welschriesling is an excellent dessert wine that will pair well with both sweet desserts and cheese platters.
At Craftwines we have a wonderful semi-sweet cuvee called “Muskateller & Co.” of Welschriesling and Muskat Ottonel from Weingut Wagentristl that is the perfect aperitif before dinner or an afternoon wine. We also offer a very light (only 9%!) semi-sweet pure Welschriesling “Aurora” from Raser-Bayer that we have served at brunches and picnics with resounding success!
Welschriesling is widely planted throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and can be found in Serbia, Hungary, Croatia and Romania. It also grows in the Friuli and Collino in northern Italy.
The light dry Welschriesling is an excellent base for producing sekt, Austria’s equivalent to champagne, and this particular type of wine is mainly found in the eastern regions of the Weinviertel.
In years that have long warm summers and lots of sunshine, when grape varieties that usually produce crisp white wines run the risk of becoming too full bodied, WR can come to the rescue.
According to the Austrian wine law, a single-grape wine may still have a maximum of 10% of another grape varietal added. So what might have been a flat and fat Grüner Veltliner can be brought to life by a touch of the acidic Welschriesling!