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Oct 19, 2017

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Understanding German Wine
by Darryl Roberts
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 2.1
German wines offer some of the best values in the market today. The problem is understanding all those voweless words on their labels. Well, for a quick lesson in understanding German wines and the regions they come from, read on. We'll explore the grapes, the regions and a few German-isms.

(listed in order of ripeness at harvest)

lightest of pradikat wines

means late harvest, not necessarily sweet

usually, but not necessarily sweet

Beerenauslese (BA)
made from overripe grapes - sweet dessert wines

icewine, very sweet

Trokenbeerenauslese (TBA)
made from raisined grapes, super sweet, honey-like wines


Ahr - red wines from pinot noir and portugieser; a few whites from riesling and muller-thurgau.
Mittelrhein - white wines from riesling, muller-thurgau and kerner.
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer - white wines from riesling, muller-thurgau and elbling.
Rheingau - white wines from riesling; red wines from pinot noir (spatburgunder).
Nahe - white wines from muller-thurgau, riesling and silvaner.
Rheinhessen - white wines from muller-thurgau, silvaner and riesling; red wines from pinot noir (spatburgunder).
Pfalz - white wines from riesling, muller-thurgau, kerner, silvaner and morio-muskat; red wines from portugieser.
Franken - white wines from muller-thurgau and silvaner, usually bottled in a squat, green flagon called a bocksbeutel.
Hessische Bergstrasse - white wines from riesling, muller-thurgau and silvaner.
Wurttemberg - largest red wine region in germany. red wines from trollinger, mullerrebe (pinot meunier), spatburgunder (pinot noir), portugieser and lemberger; whites from riesling, muller-thurgau, kerner and silvaner.
Baden - white wines from muller-thurgau, rulander (pinot gris), gutedel, gewurztraminer and riesling; reds from spatburgunder (pinot noir). a popular rose wine is spatburgunder weissherbst.
Saale-Unstrut - white wines from muller-thurgau, silvaner and weissburgunder (pinot blanc).
Sachsen - white wines from muller-thurgau (rivaner), weissburgunder (pinot blanc) and traminer.



Muller-Thurgau - flowery bouquet; milder acidity than Riesling; slight muscat flavor; best consumed young.
Riesling - fragrant; citrus and peach fruit bouquet; pronounced acidity; potential for aging, but enjoyable young.
Silvaner - neutral bouquet; mild acidity; full-bodied; best enjoyed young.
Kerner - light muscat bouquet; racy, lively acidity; similar to Riesling.
Scheurebe - lively acidity; bouquet and taste reminiscent of black currants.
Rulander/Grauburgunder - robust, full-bodied, smooth, soft and full on the palate.


Spatburgunder - full-bodied, with hints of almonds.
Portugieser - light, mild, easy-going, best consumed young.
Trollinger - fragrant, fresh, fruity, good acidity, hearty.


There are three levels of German wine quality:

Tafelwein, which designates an ordinary table wine, made from normally ripe grapes and usually served in 1 litre jugs. In other words, a good cheap drunk.

Qualitatswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (Q.b.A.) German for "Quality Wines from Specific Regions," an official designation for a good quality wine from a specific region, Bereich or village. Wines with pretentions to quality but don't quite cut it (sugar had to be added to the grape juice in order for the finished wine to reach minimum alcoholic strength).

Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (Q.m.P.) German for "Quality Wine with Distinction," an official designation for quality wine from a specific Bereich , village or vineyard. This is the highest classification of German wine (see previous sidebar>.

1 The specified growing region: one of the 13 designated regions in Germany.

2 The year in which the grapes were harvested.

3 The town and the vineyard from which the grapes come.

4 The grape variety.

5 The taste or style of the wine.

6 The quality level of the wine, indicating ripeness of the grapes at harvest.

7 The official testing number: proof that the wine has passed chemical and sensory testing required for all German Quality Wines.

8 Wines bottled and produced by the grower or a cooperative of growers may be labeled "Erzeugerabfullung." Estates and growers can use "Gutsabfullung" as an alternative. Other wineries and bottlers are indentified as "Abfuller."

If you remember anything from this article remember this: the degree of grape ripeness at harvest determines quality of german wines.

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