German wine classifications

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The multiple faces of Riesling

German wines are initially split into two classifications, Qba (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete) i.e. good quality and QmP (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, now known simply as Prädikatswein), i.e. wines of distinction.  Within the latter category wines are further split as follows, depending on the ripeness of the grape at harvest:

Kabinett – Made from the least ripe grapes, producing the lightest style of Riesling wine. They tend to have lower alcohol levels (in the 8-10 per cent range) and are made in a drier style.

Spätlese – Translated as “late picking”, it refers to grapes that are picked late during the harvest season. This Riesling typically has a medium-body, intense flavour, due to more sun and can be made in either a dry or sweet style.

Auslese – Translated as “out picked” designating ripe grapes picked out from a specific cluster of berries. This Riesling can also be made into either a dry or a sweet version.

Beerenauslese (BA) – This Riesling is made into the luxurious dessert wines that are sought out for their compatibility with desserts, especially caramel-based and even foie gras.

Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) – Translated as “dry berry select picking” designates a late harvest, Botrytis picking, where the berries have started to shrivel on the vine, concentrating the sugars. TBA wines are ultra concentrated, nectar-like dessert wines that also go well with blue cheese.

Eiswein – These are the famous dessert wines that are harvested from highly concentrated grapes that have frozen on the vine and are then pressed to produce a lush and rich dessert wine.