Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wine Education Series

Today's topic: Deciphering German wines (in particular Riesling which is the majority of wines produced in Germany)

German wines in general can be broken down into 2 categories
  1. QbA (Qualitatswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete) - basic everyday, inexpensive, quaffing wines.
  2. Qmp ( Qualitatswein mit Pradikat) - quality German wine with specific traits and the highest class of German wines.
  • If a wine is designated as QmP it is then designated more specifically on the ripeness of the grape at harvest. The following is a list of those categories
    1. Kabinett - grapes picked during normal harvest time, typically light bodied and low in alcohol
    2. Spatlese - this word literally translates to late harvest, fully ripe grapes with greater intensity and strength. Spatlesen wines may be dry or have a hint of sweetness.
    3. Auslese - very ripe grapes harvested in select bunches, more rich and intense than Spatlese and exude a lush sweetness
    4. Beerenaulese - berry selected - very rare and expensive wines made from individually selected grapes. These wines exhibit "Deep honeyed richness".
    5. Trokenbeerenaulese - these are the richest sweetest and most expensive wines in all of Germany and are usually made from single selected grapes that have been affected by botrytis.
The above terms all determine ripeness at harvest, on the bottle we can look for other terms to actually determine the sweetness (RS) of the wine.
    1. Trocken - completely dry wine
    2. Halbtrocken - from dry up to 1.8% residual sugar
The main regions for German Riesling are Mosel Saar Rower, Pflaz, The Rheingau, and the Rheinhessen.

Stay tuned for more wine education series. If there is something you would like to learn about in particular, please shoot me an email.

1 comment:

Dezel said...

Hi John,

Good and insightful posting. A common mistake made when demystifying German wine labels is related to the ratings (1-5) you have listed. Some use this as the sweetness levels of the wine in the bottle, when they are in fact how the Germans gauge the quality of the fruit. – more sugar/ripeness , better the quality.

I usually find the quality level I want and the lower the alcohol, the more residual sugar, higher the alcohol, the drier the wine.

I look forward to more of your educational series friend.

Dezel