Is Riesling Red or White Wine? The Answer is Not That Straight Forward

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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As white wines go, few can top a delicious Riesling. Aromas of flowers and flavors of apples, pears, stone fruits, and citrus. Who can resist? 

Especially when paired with a German-style roast chicken or a rich salad. Whether it’s their racing acidity or sometimes slight sweetness, they evoke the senses better than most wines. 

But, like many things in the wine world, Rieslings, too, can surprise even those who know them best. 

A glass of wine held by a hand - Is Riesling Red or White Wine?

Is Riesling a Red or White wine?

Riesling is a white grape that produces white wine. The grapes themselves are green with occasional hints of yellow, depending on the clone and where it’s grown. 

When the grapes are pressed, the juice that comes out is a faint yellow. This results in a wine that’s very pale, almost like a soft straw in color. 


Can a Riesling be Red?

Many grapes have clones that can be different in appearance, flavor, etc. Although normally a white grape, Riesling has a clone known in Germany asRotor Riesling or red Riesling. This variety may, in fact, be older than many of the Riesling clones we grow today. 

Rotor Riesling is very rare. The grape’s skins are light red, probably because of a mutation long ago. Contrary to their namesake, red Rieslings don’t produce red wines. Their color is close to regular Riesling, only faintly darker. 


What About Pink Riesling?

Some winemakers choose to leave the skins on when they ferment their white wines. This is rare with Riesling. White wine fermented on their skins produces more color and more tannin. This is how many orange wines are made.

When a red Riesling juice is fermented with its skins, the resulting wine is a light pink colored rose. In Germany, this style is becoming more popular. Pink Rieslings are similar in flavor to white Rieslings, only with more tannin and more rounded fruit flavors. 

There are other ways to make pink Rieslings. Sometimes winemakers choose to add a bit of red wine to their white Riesling to give it a bit of color. 

This changes the color of the wine and subtly the flavor. Vice versa, a winemaker may blend a little Riesling in with their rose made from red grapes, although this isn’t very common. 

Final Thoughts on Red or White Riesling

Riesling is a white grape and produces white wine. The only exception is the rare rotor Riesling or red Riesling. In Germany, these wines normally produce a wine that is like regular Riesling. However, some winemakers choose to use skin-contact fermentation to produce pink Rieslings that have similar characteristics to orange wines or roses.