The German Classification System
Not so baffling, when you get down to it
Wednesday 30 March 2022
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As well as having a range of classifications all their own, German winemakers also use separate nomenclature for describing how wines are produced. This is called the Prädikat designation.
Landwein / Deutscher Wein
These wines are your tables wines. Pure and simple — this is wine you’d be happy to quaff with dinner, but you’re not gonna save it for a special occasion.
Quality can vary between regions and ripeness. If in doubt, ask the wine shop salesperson! It’s what they’re there for!
A step up from Landwein, Qualitätswein is a name given to wines whose grapes reached a minimum standard of ripeness. In Germany, unlike elsewhere in the world, quality isn’t judged by vineyard, but on grape ripeness.
Superior quality wine that can be either dry or sweet, but will always have a little residual sugar. As a result, top quality dry white wines with no residual sugar that might have otherwise ranked here are only ever labelled “Qualitätswein”.
The ripeness level (Prädikat) will be written on the label.
Within the Prädikatswein classification, wines are designated as:
Semi-sweet, light-bodied wines with crisp acidity. Good enough for the winemaker to drink.
Spätlese - “Late Harvest”
Made from fully-ripened grapes harvested a full week after the rest of the vineyard. Full-bodied and fruity.
Auslese - “Select Harvest”
Hand-selected from the vineyard, this wine is only made with the ripest berries, sometimes with Noble Rot/Botrytis.
Beerenauslese - “Select
Taking Auslese up a notch. Overripe berries are selected individually from bunches to create a silky dessert wine.
- “Dry Berry Selection”
Selection intensifies! Grapes shrivelled by ripeness and Noble Rot are selected from whole bunches creating a very sweet wine.
Eiswein - “Ice Wine”
Wine made from grapes that were allowed to freeze on the vine. This makes an intense and concentrated, flavourful wine.
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