I frequently hear the comment, “All Rieslings are sweet,” which is not valid. They can be dry, sweet, or off-dry. Hearing this has sparked a renewed interest in German wines. If you, like me, are intimated by German wine labels, let’s become more knowledgeable. I hope we can, as the Germans say, “write something behind our ears”, to help reduce that intimidation.
An article about German wines and their ranking systems that may help us comes from the website thecellar.store from New Zealand.
Two classifications system to consider: Pradikat and VDP.
VDP is an organization of about 200 growers who adhere to these rules:
Own their vineyards and have their own winemaking facility/equipment/cellar.
Prune to agreed-upon yields.
Pick grapes that meet the high must (sugar) weights.
Use ‘traditional’ grape varietals (Riesling, NOT Sauvignon Blanc, for example)
Practice sustainable viticulture and use traditional winemaking techniques
As a member of the VDP, your vineyards are classified as one of the following:
Gutswein (GERTS-vine) vineyards are ‘entry level.’
Ortswein (ORTS-vine) vineyards are seen (by the members) as a village’s best.
Erste Lage (EERS-te la-guh) indicates the first-class vineyards.
Grosse Lage (GROHSS-la-guh) indicates the best of the best.
And there’s more: the Erste Gewachs (EG) and the highly lauded Grosses Gewachs (GG) wines. Let‘s save these for another time.
Now, the Pradikat system, which relates to sugar ripeness:
Kabinett (Ka-bee-nett) wines have grapes that are above average in ripeness and thus higher in sugar level. The resulting wines tend to be off-dry.
Spatlese (SHPAT-lay-zuh) wines have ‘late harvest’ grapes. These wines will be between off-dry and medium-dry in sweetness.
Auslese (Owss-leh-zeh) wines will be medium-sweet and have more dried/candied fruit flavors.
Beerenauslese (Beh-ren-owss-leh-zeh) These wines will be sweet and have dried/candied fruit flavors.
Trockenbeerenauslese (Tro-ken-be-ren-ous-ley-zuh) These wines will be lusciously sweet, have an aromatic spectrum with plenty of tropical and candied fruit flavors.
We have only taken a small sip of German wine information, and there is so much more to learn. I say, let the journey begin. Cheers, or should we say, Prost!