Decoding German Wine Labels: The Six Prädikat Categories

German wines are renowned for their quality and diversity, ranging from dry, crisp whites to lusciously sweet dessert wines. Grasping the German wine labeling system, particularly the six Prädikat categories, is crucial to understand and appreciate the wines this country has to offer. This article will guide you through the Prädikat categories and help you make informed decisions when selecting German wines.

Understanding the German Wine Classification System

Germany has a unique wine classification system that focuses on the ripeness of the grapes at harvest time. The system is divided into two main categories: Qualitätswein (quality wine) and Prädikatswein (quality wine with distinction). Prädikatswein is further classified into six Prädikat categories, based on the grape’s ripeness level and sugar content.

The Six Prädikat Categories

The Prädikat categories, in ascending order of ripeness, are:

Kabinett: These wines are made from grapes harvested at a standard level of ripeness. Kabinett wines are often light, refreshing, and low in alcohol. They can be dry (trocken), off-dry (halbtrocken), or sweet, and are typically meant for early consumption.

Spätlese: Translated as “late harvest,” Spätlese wines are made from grapes that have been left on the vine for an extended period, allowing for higher sugar levels and more concentrated flavors. These wines can be dry or sweet and often exhibit more complexity and depth than Kabinett wines.

Auslese: This category represents selectively harvested grapes with even higher sugar levels. The wines can range from medium-sweet to sweet and often showcase intense fruit flavors and a rich, full-bodied character.

Beerenauslese (BA): BA wines are made from individually selected, overripe grapes, often affected by noble rot (Botrytis cinerea). This fungal infection causes the grapes to shrivel, concentrating their flavors and sugar content. BA wines are intensely sweet, luscious, and suitable for long-term aging.

Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): TBA wines are made from individually selected, dried grapes affected by noble rot. The resulting wines are extraordinarily sweet, with an almost syrupy texture, and display incredible complexity and longevity.

Eiswein: Eiswein, or ice wine, is made from grapes that have been left on the vine to freeze. The frozen grapes are then pressed, leaving behind the water content and resulting in a highly concentrated, sweet wine. Eiswein shares many characteristics with BA and TBA wines but typically exhibits a more vibrant acidity.

Additional Label Information

Understanding German Wine Labels

In addition to the Prädikat categories, German wine labels often contain other essential information:

Producer: The winery or estate responsible for producing the wine.

Region and Appellation: The wine’s region of origin, such as Mosel, Rheingau, or Pfalz, and the specific appellation or vineyard site.

Grape Variety: The grape variety used in the wine, such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, or Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir).

Style Indicators: Words like “trocken” (dry), “halbtrocken” (off-dry), or “feinherb” (semi-sweet) indicate the wine’s sweetness level.

Understanding German wine labels, particularly the six Prädikat categories, is essential for fully appreciating the wines Germany has to offer. Familiarizing yourself with these categories and the information on the label will allow you chose the right wine.

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Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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