Let us start off by pointing out this important tidbit, NOT ALL RIESLING IS SWEET. Now read it out loud so you won’t forget: NOT ALL RIESLING IS SWEET. However, there are, of course, sweet Rieslings. Most of your California Rieslings, unless otherwise noted, are going to be sweet. These Rieslings tend to have notes of apple, peach, apricot, and honey.
Germany, however, is the Riesling king. With German Riesling, you really have to pay attention to the label. Where the grape is from will indicate the flavor profile of the wine. For example, Mosel Rieslings have more of an apple and floral character. Rhine Rieslings, like Rheingau, Rheinhessen, and Rheinpflatz, have more citrus, with a richer apricot, peach and spice taste. To produce different levels of sweetness, German Rieslings are harvested at different times. Kabinett is harvested first and is the driest style of German Rieslings. Spatlese is next, producing a slightly sweeter wine but still not as sweet as most American versions of the grape. Auslese is next, producing the sweet wine that many people have come to expect of a Riesling. Beyond these are Beerenauslese, Trokenbeerenauslese, and Eiswine. These are all dessert wines and are discussed in our dessert wine section. (maybe include a hyperlink here that leads you to the dessert wine page?)
Other dry Rieslings can be found in Alsace and Australia. Rieslings from Alsace are bone dry with notes of apples and minerals. Australian Rieslings often have notes of lemon and minerality.