Welschriesling is a white-wine grape variety grown throughout central and eastern Europe. It is mostly notorious for its neutrality, as it makes largely light, uninteresting white wines with high acidity. However, Welschriesling comes into its own in the area of Neusiedlersee in southeast Austria, where it makes lusciously sweet and textured Trockenbeerenauslese wines.
Welschriesling covers vineyard land in Hungary, Northern Italy, Croatia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, and Slovakia, as well as in Austria. The origin of the variety is the center of much debate: despite its name it is completely unrelated to the great German grape Riesling. "Welsch" means "foreign" in German, which likely rules out a Germanic origin, and another synonym, Riesling Italico, suggests that Italy might be the variety's home, although this has also been widely disputed. Many experts believe that Welschriesling's home is in fact Croatia, where it is known as Grasevina and is one of the country's most planted grape varieties.
The variety is relatively easy to grow, although it does have a preference for dry climates and warm soils. Welschriesling is productive and retains its acidity in warmer climates, making it a reliable grape for growers. In most cases this will result in a light, fairly neutral wine, but in the warm, humid vineyards surrounding Lake Neusiedl, the noble rot botrytis can form, leading to the grape's finest expression. Here, Welchriesling is often blended with Chardonnay to give weight to the wines.
Welschriesling's success in Austria has lead to experimentation around the world, and many late harvest examples are now made.
Synonyms include: Riesling Italico, Grasevina, Grassica, Laski Rizling, Banat Riesling, Olaszrizling, Riesler, Vojvodina, Wälschriesling, Welschrizling, Welsch Rizling, Borba.
Food matches for Welschriesling include:
- Dalmatian seafood stew (brodet) (dry)
- Lemon pound cake (sweet)
- Lime sorbet (sweet)