Riesling is one of the most ancient German varieties there are records of it dating back to 1435 in Rheingau, from where it probably originates. Its name may be derived from the old German word rîzan meaning "to split", possibly in reference to the grapes that split easily under pressure, like with Chasselas (Fendant). DNA tests have established that Riesling is one of many offsprings of Gouais Blanc, just like Chardonnay, Gamay, Furmint, etc. which are therefore half-siblings of Riesling.
In Switzerland, this late-ripening variety, resistant to cold and mildew, is mainly grown in Valais and Zurich, where it gives structured, highly acidic wines, with hints of kerosene as it ages.