Welschriesling – History and Origin
The exact origin of this white grape variety has not yet been determined. It is assumed that the vines come from Northern Italy as its name suggests: It translates roughly as ‘Riesling of Romanic peoples’. There are other wine historians, however, who conjecture that it originated in the Champagne, where it is no longer cultivated. Yet others believe that it may have come from Romania.
Lineage and Pedigree
Even the ancestry of the Welschriesling grapevine is unclear, and its closest relative is likely the Elbling. Contrary to what its name suggests, it is not related to the proper (White or Rhine) Riesling.
Welschriesling - Second Most Important Austrian Varietal
Welschriesling is cultivated in all Austrian wine growing regions. With 3597 hectares of vineyards, it is a very important Austrian wine, second only to the Grüner Veltliner. In the Hungarian wine growing region Badacsony, it is the most important grape variety. Other regions in which the Welschriesling is cultivated may be found in Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic, as well as in the Italian wine growing regions Trentino and Friuli.
The Welschriesling leaf has three to five lobes. It is smooth and has a strongly toothed edge. Its cylindrical grapes are of average size and grow in compact, shouldered clusters. The berries have a thin, yellow-green, speckled skin and are very juicy.
In good locations, Welschriesling grapevines have a high yield. For that reason it is important to limit the harvest in order to produce high quality wines.
Terroir, Location and Soil Conditions
Locations with a low average rainfall and sandy, wet, magnesium-rich soil are ideal for Welschriesling grapevines. This variety is frost resistant but thrives in warm, sunny locations. Dryness stresses the wine grapevines and prevents them from producing sufficient shoots. The Welschriesling grape is susceptible to a wilt disease caused by boytritis cinerea, which can, however, be countered by taking appropriate measures.
There are very different qualities of Welschriesling wines - from young, fresh wines to predicate wines. The Welschriesling grape variety is also used for the production of sparkling wine. Younger wines have a pronounced acidic profile and a fruitier bouquet with notes of green apple or citrus fruits. Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines made from the Welschriesling varietal have very complex bouquet with fine notes of honey and exotic fruits and a characteristic acidic structure.
The synonyms used for Welschriesling are both numerous and regional, although the word stem ‘riesling’ can generally be found somewhere within the synonyms. In Hungary, for example, Olasz, Olasz Risling or Nemes Olasz Riesling are common terms. In other regions it may be known as Petit Riesling, Riesling Italico, Rizling or Riesli.
Food Pairing with Welschriesling
The Welschriesling produces a fruity white wine and goes especially well with light dishes – salads, cold appetisers or pasta. It is also an excellent house wine or summer wine. In Austria it is popular as a spritzer, cut with sparkling mineral water or club soda.