The History of Riesling in NY

by tarynlachter
Riesling has a bit of a strange reputation.

It’s a German wine that used to be consumed as a sweet, dessert wine, as most variations were cloyingly sweet and best when cold.

While these do still exist, there is a new Riesling in town.

It hails from New York State. 

Riesling has a bit of a strange reputation. It’s a German wine that used to be consumed as a sweet, dessert wine, as most variations were cloyingly sweet and best when cold. While these do still exist, there is a new Riesling in town and it hails from New York State. 

In the northern part of this great state lies the Finger Lakes, a series of long, skinny, finger-like lakes that make up the region which produces 90% of the global production of Rieslings. The area’s cool lake-effect temperatures, glacial soils, and sloping hills have created a haven for the Riesling grape to not only grow but truly thrive into the award-winning wine it has become. Dr. Konstantin Frank has been credited with founding the Finger Lakes Wine Region and showed that cool climate wines, like the Riesling, could be produced here in New York. 

You’re probably thinking, “well, it can’t be that hard to grow grapes up there, it’s only cold in the winter.” But it truly is difficult. Think about when the weather starts to turn and how much the amount of sun differs during those transition periods. Grapes, like the delicate European varieties, require varying degrees of sunshine to be successful, and the weather can be quite severe up in the northern parts of the state. The Riesling has, with the help of Dr. Frank and others, become hardened to the harsh temperatures and is now one of the leading wines in the state, and has even become the unofficial white wine of New York. 

Here, you can find Riesling has a dry, crisp white wine or a sweet, delicious, ice wine. The area itself is lush with greenery and farming which lends itself to the fruity notes you can find in different Finger Lakes Rieslings, like green apples.  Many boast this sly acidity that you aren’t expecting but still thoroughly enjoy especially when it’s accompanied by that gentle amount of sugar to balance it all out. 

If you don’t have the opportunity to drive up to the region yourself, Finger Lakes Rieslings can be found in shops all over the city and state. You should go for the original and try something from Dr. Frank’s cellars but also experiment and enjoy the fabulous wonder that is the New York Riesling. 



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