Riesling is a white grape variety historically grown in Germany, Alsace (France), Austria, and northern Italy. It is a very old grape, first documented in 1435, in which year the storage inventory of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen (a small principality on the Rhine) listed the purchase of six barrels of riesslingen from a Rüsselsheim vintner. The modern word Riesling was first documented in 1552 when it was mentioned in Hieronymus Bock's Latin herbal.
Riesling grapes prefer a cooler climate such as that of Germany's Mosel and Rhine valleys, which allow the grape to ripen over an extended growing period. Besides, Riesling grapes prefer predominantly slate soils.
By taking these two factors into consideration, there are still a number of North American and Australian wineries which are committed to producing high quality Riesling wines (such as New York State's Finger Lakes Region where the climate is cooler and the slate soils come close to the conditions found in Germany).
Riesling grapes produce three distinct styles of wine, dry, half-dry and sweet. Picking the grapes early, when the sugar content is low, gives a crisp, fruity Riesling wine. Leaving the grapes a little longer produces the half-dry variety and if harvesting is done late in the season when the grapes have fully ripened they produce a sweet Riesling Wine.