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The Welschriesling Grape

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About Welschriesling, aka Graševina

(Synonyms: Aminea Gemela, Biela Sladka, Bielasladka Grasica, Glasica, Grasavina Talijanska, Grasevina, Grasica, Groshevina, Italianski Rizling, Laški Rizling, Nemes Olasz Rizling, Olaszrizling, Olasz Rizling, Petit Riesling, Petracine, Rakusky Rizling, Riesler, Riesli, Riesling, Riesling Italian, Riesling Italico, Risling Italyanskii, Risling Vlashskii, Rismi, Rizling Italico, Rizling Vlašský, Talianska Graseviana, Talijanski Rizling, Vlasak, Italian Riesling, Ryzlink vlašský, Welschriesling)


Welschriesling grapes Map showing central Europe

Welschriesling/Graševina is a white-wine grape originating in central Europe; there are various theories about its exact place of origin, but no one seems very sure. It is nowadays grown throughout central and eastern Europe, and is widely known under each of its two leading synonyms, Welschriesling and Graševina.

Welschriesling is another of a fairly large number of wines, mostly but not entirely whites, that have little repute as dry table wines because they are usually used to make sweet dessert wines. But (as with most or all of that class), when vinified with some care as a dry table wine, it can make good to excellent wine. Other problems that have plagued Welschriesling are one, that it was often in past (and to some extent still today) used to make cheap plonk, which relates to two, which is that it can run riot in the vineyard, which produces quantity at the definite expense of quality. Only by carefully controlling yields can good grapes, and thus good wine, be made. (It didn't help the wine's reputation when, in the bad old days, the Soviets forced foolishly high outputs of cheap, watery junk wines throughout Eastern Europe.)

The prefix "Welchs" means "foreign" or "alien" (the same as "Welsh" in English). Welchsriesling (a bad, bad name, because the grape is not at all related to true Rieslings, but is consequently often compared to them) is what the grape is called in most places; but in the locale where it reputedly grows best and produces the finest wines, Croatia, it is called Graševina, and it is probably those wines that one first seeking out the type should sample. In Austria, another major producer, the emphasis is clearly on the dessert wines the grape can make.

Dry Graševina when young tends toward a light color and a notable aroma and taste of apples; mature Graševina shows strong minerality, with citrus and stone fruit aromas and flavors.

Factoid: Welschriesling is often used, especially in Austria, as the base wine for sparkling wines.

Some Descriptions of Welschriesling Wines

  • Neal Martin, eRobertParker, reprinted on "Wines of Croatia"

    "I am convinced that Grasevina can produce fine white wine, indeed I fondly recall an impressive flight at the International Wine Challenge last April. Probably the best thing that anyone did was change the name and banish the associations we have with the much-derided Laski Rizling. Grasevina is easy to pronounce and provides a hook for some lovely, fresh, aromatic Croatian wines that perhaps need to work on their length: abundant flavour on the front palate but not the back-end to really make an impression. Growers need to watch those yields because they can engender bland, anonymous wines if not kept in check."

  • Croatian Wines

    "Usually by far the best Grasevina come from Kutjevo areas, though in the dry and hot years such as the 2003 exceptional quality Grasevina also can be found in the vineyards of northwestern Croatia, such as Plesivica. In good years Grasevina displays aromas and flavors of fresh juicy apple. Grasevina ripens late, the harvest are usually in the second half of October, a young wine has a beautiful light yellow-green color, while the mature Grasevina predominate yellow tones. "

  • the drinks business

    "In the right sites in Croatia, and where a green harvest is practised, Graševina will produce a wine that is full bodied with fresh acidity, and, stressed [wine writer Saša] Špiranec, marked minerality."

  • Wine Searcher

    "Wine made from Welschriesling lacks strong aromas and is widely considered to be of lower quality than the great Rieslings of Germany and France. The exception are those from Austria, where Welschriesling’s high acidity is employed to create Trockenbeerenauslese wines that rely more on their luscious sweetness and texture than aromatic profile. A number of late-harvest wines are also produced from Welschriesling wines around the world."

  • Austrian Wine

    "The versatile Welschriesling can cover almost all quality levels: from base wine for neutral, acidity-accented sparking wines (the grapes come mostly from the area around Poysdorf in the Weinviertel) to easy-drinking Buschenschank (tavern) wines from the Steiermark, to the noble sweet TBA wines from Burgenland, especially from the Seewinkel. . . The wines are very good for the production of sparkling wine, but they are also excellent for Prädikat wine as well. The quality range is very extensive. . . Yields wines with generous acidity and a fruity bouquet exuding notes of green apple and lemon. While dry Welschrieslings can be very fresh culinary companions, the Prädikat [off-dry] versions are amongst the truly great sweet wines of the world. Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese styles have a golden-yellow hue, the bouquet wafts with exotic fruit and the palate delivers a fine honey note along with the characteristic acidity."

  • Wine Geeks

    "The wine is best known for producing dry wines that are light, slightly floral and have a nice blend of citrus and stone fruits. Welschriesling takes well to warmer climates, as in cooler climates it can be overly acidic. More productive than true Riesling (which is usually called Johannisberg or Rheinriesling when it is found in the same regions as Welschreisling) though generally it is not as long-lived or as fragrant as its similarly named counterpart. The best examples of Welschriesling hail from the Burgenland area of Austria where it can be found in both dry and sweet versions. Fine wines of Trockenbeerenauslese levels of Noble Rot made from the Welschriesling are not uncommon. Dry versions can be found extensively in the northern Italian regions of Trentino, Collio and Friuli, as well as in Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and other areas of the former Soviet Republic."

  • Fringe Wine

    "Welschriesling is made into a wide range of styles, but the two most common are dry table wines and late harvest/botrytized sweet wines."

  • FindTheBest

    "The Grasevina has been known to exhibit apricot, berry (general), peach, and rose characteristics."

Some Graševinas & Welschrieslings to Try

(About this list.)

Austrian wine in general is little known in the U.S., primarily for the same reason Swiss wines suffer obscurity: though excellent, they are scarce, and the locals drink almost all that is made. And Styrian wines are among the least-known of those already obscure Austrian gems. As you will see below, even press and blog reviews of these wines are few and far between.

As is all too often the case with lesser-known varieties, there is a dire paucity of offerings available at retail in the U.S., and most of what there is at all is very scarce, often (according to the wine-search engines) carried by but a single retailer. A couple of retailers suggest more listings, but are usually "Out of Stock" on them. This list is what we could find.

In all cases, caveat emptor: many of these wineries also make sweet dessert wines from this grape, or other price-level bottlings, and retailers' listings (and even the makers' labels) often do not distinguish carefully. Make sure that if you want one of these wines, that that is the one you're going to get.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Weingut Lackner-Tinnacher Welschriesling, $10.
    (Sudsteiermark, Austria)

    Some quotations and facts:

    This is a soft, fruity wine cut with bright green fruits, fresh apple acidity and lemon zest. It’s an immediately attractive, clean and fragrant wine, with a pure line of acidity right at the heart of its refreshing nature. 88 points.

    Fairly cool nose, citrus and pomaceous fruit, vegetal traces. Clear and polished on the palate, tranquil, fairly firm fruit, elegant acidity, delicate vegetal and herbaceous notes, hint of bell peppers, earthy and mineral traces in the background, fairly persistent, quite a good finish. 85 points.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (November/December 2008), 88 Points.

    Pale yellow. Delicate spring meadow herbs, marshmallow, tobacco and subtle green apple on the nose. Light and lively, with a brisk acid structure framing the crab apple and lichee flavors. The moderately long finish leaves behind a taste of lemon zest. Very refreshing wine.

    Think silky pineapples, flowers, and herbs.

  • Ivan Enjingi Graševina, $11 - $20.
    (Kutjevo, Croatia.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Winemaker Ivan Koloman takes Grasevina, inland Croatia's humble go-to grape, and elevates it to world-class quality in this seductive white.

    This is a classic Grasevina, with a straw yellow hue, pronounced aroma, medium content of alcohol and extract, and a pleasantly bitter aftertaste. You can't go wrong if the bottle has a Enjingi label on it. After long years of work, self-sacrifice and struggle in the vineyards and wine cellars, the Enjingis made it – their name became synonymous with quality.

    Floral and fruity up front with sweet lychee, stonefruit and jasmine flower notes, this is a refreshing wine with zesty acidity and a clean, grassy midpalate that’s just a bit short on concentration. 84 points.

    The interplay of peachy fruit and strong peppery mineral is intriguing, but balance is a problem. Dark lemon/yellow in color, there is creamy white peach fruit in the nose, along with substantial peppery mineral and a hint of petrol. Medium bodied, with a creamy and somewhat viscous mouthfeel, there is a great deal of peppery mineral acidity and moderate bitterness. The combination of cream and pepper is a bit incongruous. In the flavors, floral-tinged and slightly honeyed white peach fruit makes an appearance first, but is soon overtaken by an avalanche of peppery mineral and bitter herbs. The finish has modest length and feels unbalanced. Rated Good.

    The entry-level basic bottling from natural winemaker and “godfather of Graševina”, Ivan Enjingi. Straw yellow with green highlights; notes of autumn apple, banana peppers, and savory hints of charred wood, sweet spices, and a mineral note akin to powdered stone; spicy on palate with lively acidity and a long, palate cleansing finish — makes your mouth tingle and crave roast pork loin, grilled weisswurst, or fish paprikash.

    Floral, unctuous Enjingi Graševina 2012 finishes with a cleansing note of bitter almond. It stands up to rich cuttlefish risotto.

    Almond oil bitterness on the nose and grapefruit zest, slightly odd fennel -like aromas, light spritz, and high alcohol crushed cider apple fruit with quite bitter phenolic character. Hefty and powerful. 87 points.

    In Croatia, wine makers, and Ivan Enjingi in particular, have shaped this grape into an elegant wine for even the most discerning palates.

    Deep golden color. Golden apple predominates throughout the aroma, palate, and finish. Very aromatic nose, also reminds me of baklava (honey, orange peel, baking spices). Dry, full bodied with flavors that also include honey/toffee intermingled with nice minerality. Refreshing acidity and a long finish with notes of exotic spice. This is a delicious wine and at $15, a terrific value.

  • Sanctum Welschriesling, $13.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Sorry, there don't seem to be any third-party reviews around. The retailer offering it says: "This refreshing wine has aromas of green apple, white flowers and tropical fruit. It is dry and medium-full bodied with a slightly creamy finish." The maker's web site says: "ViApples [sic], gooseberries, tropical fruit and white flower aromas create an extremely pleasant nose. This welschriesling is produced by Jure Brumec in Loce, Stajerska Slovenia. Aged on lees for 9 months, 1/3 in oak, 1/3 in acacia and 1/3 in stainless steel, this is a full body wine that will compliment a wide variety of dishes."

  • Leo Hillinger Welschriesling, $13.
    (Neusiedlersee, Austria.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    This light, crisp white is the perfect counterpoint to a hot, lazy, summer afternoon. The slightly leafy, green apple and lime scents are a pick-me-up, followed by some delightfully pure and crystalline flavors ranging from rainwater to fresh greens, apple and pears to citrus. Clean and refreshing on the finish. 88 points.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (31 July 2003), 85 points.

    Here's a lovely Riesling [sic, with a peppery undertone playing off the floral and apple flavors, yet showing a little heat on the finish. Good length.

    Color: pale yellow slightly sparkling. Bouquet: lime, green apples. Taste: light body, zesty lime acidity, very refreshing, green apple, medium finish. Overall score: 82.

    The bottling is pale white in color with a light spritz and a clean fresh aroma of wet straw. On the palate is exhibits a dry and somewhat tart mouth feel with a long peppery finish.

    It generally produces a fruity, refreshing wine; the 2003 combines green apple and elderberry aromas in a crisp and light-bodied frame.

    A great summer wine. Light, fresh and goes anywhere.

  • Zdjelarevic Graševina, $13 - $15.
    (Slavonia, Croatia.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    There’s a long pause after everyone inhales the downright tropical aromas and takes the first sip. Everyone concurs that this wine is unlike just about anything we’ve had before. The nose is overflowing with honey, melon, maybe even mango aromas. It’s more powerful than layered, but it’s nonetheless enticing. On the palate, it initially seemed sweet and kind of boring. The more I drank it, the more I could taste all sorts of fruits and herbs — pear, orange, melon, lemongrass. It doesn’t have a long-lasting, powerful finish of any sort, but this was memorable and unique among wines to which I’ve been exposed in my life.

    This has a rather innocuous nose of melon, pineapple and crab apple, the palate nicely balanced but short and overtly simple on the finish. Quaffing pleasure but nothing more. 83 points.

    Zdjelarevic hand harvests their grapes and ages sur lie in stainless steel. This process, most often seen in the production of Muscadet in the Loire Valley, adds complexity and richness to the wine.

  • Vinarija Daruvar Graševina, $15.
    (Kontinentalna Hrvatska, Croatia.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    This has fine definition on the nose with light aromas of acacia, honey, fine lees and a touch of orange-blossom. The palate has a ripe entry with light honeyed nose, lemon peel and quince jelly, viscous towards the sweet finish balanced by good acidity and crispness. This is a well crafted Grasevina. 89 points.

    The first thing I notice is that the Daruvar Grasevina has a particularly deep and golden color (at least for a young white wine). Actually, the first thing is what a tall and thin bottle it comes in! Aroma: The first aroma of the Grasevina that hits my nose is a fresh light ginger smell; not cooked or candied and not too overpowering, but a nice prickly little ginger. The defining aromas are of white flowers, lemon zest, and white grape. Yes, I'm describing a wine as smelling like white grapes, it happens sometimes. There's also a seductive fresh hay smell that you notice after you get around the lemon and grapes. And then just as you think you're done smelling it I smell fresh butter: really nice fresh creamy butter. The aroma isn't very powerful, but it has plenty going on and is really nice! Taste: Hmmm, there's a really cool, tasty, and familiar fruit right up front that's hard to pin down. Really fresh champagne mango; that's shat I'm going with. It's bright and there's nice acidity, but the fruit is pretty rich, plus the wine has a good full mouth filling texture. After the fresh fruit up front the taste transitions into more racy qualities with a slightly pithy puckery lip smacking chewy quality. And then, surprisingly, the finish goes back to fresh not totally ripe champagne mango and that beautiful fruit with a hint of meatiness. This is a really tasty interesting white that has the body and stuffing to stand up to serious food.

    The 2011 Graševina Daruvar is a simple, beautiful wine. A very light, straw yellow color yet crystal clear in clarity. The nose gives off subtle lemon notes with delicate hints of vanilla. On the taste buds you’ll find classic light citrus, mineral and rock with fuller mouth feel than expected. A nice, moderate finish with fruit notes finishing at the end.

    When yields are moderate, it produces a style of wine that is floral and zesty with a pleasant bitter aftertaste. My notes: straw color, nose of cherry stone, nutty and citrusy on the palate with a tangy acidity. Tastes better than it smells.

  • Adolf und Heinrich Fuchs Welschriesling, $16.
    (Neusiedlersee, Austria.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    A clean, fruity wine, with flavors of red currants, green plums and a good layer of fresh acidity. This is attractive and easy-drinking, showing just what can be done with Welschriesling. 85 points.

For a Splurge

There really aren't any obvious candidates for a "splurge" Welschriesling, chiefly because virtually every one that seems available in the U.S. is already on the list above. (There is a Vino Z Czech "Galant" Welschriesling running from $20 to $27, but it is not clearly superior according to the few press notes to be found.) Wines from Croatia and the other regions that produce from this grape are only just lately starting to come into the U.S., so sometime soon there may be more choices. If you know a wine retailer with some knowledge of eastern Europe, stay in touch with him or her.

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