German Wines and Their Fine Distinctions

So you are a lover of fine white German wines, you say? Well do you know the difference between DTW, QbA and QmP? Of course you don’t. These are German legal acronyms for

Deutscher Tafelwein (German table wine),
Qualit�¤tswein bestimmter Anbaugebiet (a quality wine of an approved region) and
Qualit�¤tswein mit Pr�¤dikat (a quality wine of distinction).

And please don’t feel bad about not having known this. Most Germans don’t know the meanings of these classifications, either.

Most German wine drinkers do, however. And although German table wines are prima and German QbA wines are practically always wunderbar, the wines that you (and I) will most likely be interested in tasting are the ones classified under the QmP classification.

The QmP label guarantees a quality wine with attributes that wines under the QbA label cannot claim to have. QmP wines cannot have any sugar added to them, for instance. They must also be a so-called Erzeugerabf�¼llung, an estate-bottled wine. They are also only permitted to come from certain specific wine-growing districts.

The QmP wines are then broken down into five distinct subcategories, all of which are based upon on the ascending level of a grape variety’s ripeness and sweetness. This also has a direct relationship upon the price of the wine, by the way. These five categories, all determined by German wine laws and broken down from the lowest to the highest concentration of sugar, are called Kabinett, SpÃ?¤tlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenberrenauslese. Germany’s ever-popular Eiswein is also considered to be a QmP wine but actually falls into a category all by itself.

Kabinett wines have to contain a minimum amount of natural sugar, the lowest amount among the five categories, and usually have roughly 20 percent of the so-called sugar weight. Depending upon the region and the variety, and the Jahrgang (year) of course, these wines can nevertheless be of excellent quality and can easily compete with their more expensive cousins – they just tend to be the driest and the least expensive.

SpÃ?¤tlese is the “late-picked” wine. These are the grapes that are selectively picked at least one week after the official harvest of a given variety has begun. These grapes are riper and therefore contain more sugar and this produces a richer and sweeter wine than the Kabinett. They contain approximately 23 percent sugar and cost a bit more than the Kabinetts, too.

Auslese means selection. These fruity wines are produced with perfectly ripened, handpicked grapes. The natural sugar content of these wines is around the 25 percent level, depending upon the variety and the region. These wines are sweet and quite expensive and are usually placed in the dessert wine category.

Beerenauslese is another form of selection: This time the “berries” themselves are handpicked. They are also separated from other grapes for pressing. The natural sugar content for these wines can easily reach 30 percent and can age for many years because of this high sugar content, developing in taste as they go. The Beerenauslese is generally very expensive and a very exclusive dessert wine.

Trockenbeerenauslese is pretty much the same idea as with Beerenauslese, only this time the handpicked “berries” are “dry”; that is, they are the overripe grapes that are left on the vine until nearly dry. Because these grapes are individually picked at the time of their fullest maturity, they produce a very concentrated taste, it’s almost a form of nectar. The natural sugar in these wines is about 35 percent. These wines are so sweet that they sometimes have trouble fermenting and contain less alcohol than the other wines do. These are rare wines – and rarely affordable (well, at least for me they are).

And Eiswein? Well, “ice wine” is made from frozen grapes. That’s right. They are picked between December and February. This is, of course, the sweetest German wine there is and the most expensive by far. Eiswein, like the Trockenbeerenauslese, is also a candidate for long aging.

But if you are like me, these wines, once in your possession, will most likely have a very short life expectancy indeed.

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