Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are endlessly battling it out in the white wine popularity contests, but why do people prefer one over the other?
Let’s take a look at what differentiates a Riesling from a Sauvignon Blanc and look at the factors that may help you pick out a favourite between the two wines.
Riesling vs Sauvignon Blanc: 7 Main Differences
At a first glance both Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are white wines with little to tell them apart.
So let's break these two wines down into more manageable categories:
First things first, where do Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc come from?
Riesling is originally from Germany and research has traced the grape back to the Rhine river Region of Germany, as well as nearby Alsace in France.
Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, is from the Bordeaux region of France, with its name most likely derived from the French sauvage (wild) and blanc (white).
Wine regions can really dictate the personality of a wine, so these origins will play a big part in what differentiates a Riesling from a Sauvignon Blanc.
But what about the characteristics of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc grapes?
Yes, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are both white grapes, but what characteristics separates one from the other?
Riesling is an incredibly hardy grape which grows in small, compact bunches making them excellent grapes for sweet wine production.
Riesling grapes can express terroir exceptionally well, giving Rieslings from differing regions a really distinct flavour profile.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes are much larger in comparison and can make anything from green herbaceous wines to zesty tropical wines.
They may both be white wines but do Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc look the same?
Riesling comes in lots of styles but tends to make a very pale, white wine often described as golden or straw like.
As Riesling ages it will become richer and darker gold in colour.
Sauvignon Blanc, in comparison, tends to be golden yellow also, but the wines often have a green hue to them, so keep an eye out for those hints of chartreuse in the glass.
So how do Riesling and Sauvignon Blancs like to be served?
Because they are both white wines both Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling should be served well chilled.
Sauvignon Blanc has lots of zesty acidity and the best temperature to serve Sauvignon Blanc is between 6-8°C (42-47°F).
Because of its perfume and more opulent character, Riesling can handle a slightly warmer temperature and the best temperature to serve Riesling is between 45–49°F or 6-9°C.
So how do the serving temperatures of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc affect their tasting notes?
Typical tasting notes associated with the Riesling grape include lime zest, juicy nectarines and even the smell of petrol.
Think of a really decadent perfume and that's a glass of Riesling wine.
Sauvingon Balnc is an exceptionally versatile grape whose flavours can vary dramatically depending on where it is grown.
For example, Sauvignon Blanc grown in the Loire Valley of France can taste of freshly cut grass, slices of green apple and freshly zested limes.
Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand, on the other hand, can taste like passion fruit seeds, ripe gooseberries and juicy honeydew melon.
So what are the best food pairings for Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc?
Sauvignon Blanc has such a gorgeous acidity it makes a perfect wine pairing for creamier dishes.
Think salads with goats cheese or chicken served with lots of butter and herbs.
Riesling is a wonderful food wine and can go well with all manner of dishes.
Why not try a sweet Riesling with your next dessert or a drier example of the grape alongside your next Chinese takeaway.
So how do the characteristics of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc affect their price?
Both Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc make exceptional quality wines and will have a price tag to match.
Because both wines have a reputation for excellent taste as well as the ability to age well there are examples of both styles of wine for every budget, so ask your wine retailer for advice here depending on how much you’re willing to spend.
So which wine is best?
Is Riesling better than Sauvignon Blanc?
Which Is Better: Riesling Or Sauvignon Blanc?
They may both be white wines but there is a lot to set apart a Riesling from a Sauvignon Blanc and the only person who can say which is best is yourself.
Tasting is very subjective after all and preferences will vary from person to person.
Whether you’re after a perfumed hit of Riesling or a herbaceous glass of Sauvignon Blanc there’s lots for your tastebuds to salivate over between the two wines.
Why not grab a bottle of both for the weekend and see if you can taste the difference between the two?
Tasting is the best way to learn after all.