Why German Wine? - A practical buyers guide
Author: Sabrina Quick
Why German Wine? - A practical buying guide
The below information is meant to be a quick and easy way to understand German wines. They are some of the most interesting and misunderstood wines on the market and are a secret among the inner sanctum of the wine world. Let us explore!
Is German Wine sweet?
This is the most common question that we get asked, and the simple answer is no.
In fact, German vintners work on an ascending scale of six levels of ripeness known as Qualitätswein mit Prädikat - QmP (quality wine with distinction) that is governed by German law. And while ripeness increases, dry wines are created by converting that sugar to alcohol, thereby increasing the body, composition and weight of the wine. What is left over after fermentation is the residual sugar (RS).
Unfortunately in the US market, very few high quality German wines (QmP) are available, because many craft quality German producers sell locally out of their cellars with some selling few wines outside of their region. Although many people believe that all German Rieslings are sweet, most Riesling made in Germany is actually dry.
What are the different levels on the quality scale?
On the QmP scale, the first two harvests, the Kabinett and Spätlese, are typically dry or semi-dry and are unbelievable food pairing wines, because of the high acidity levels in the Riesling grape.
As one of the most diverse white wines in the world, Riesling is capable of achieving four more levels of ripeness on the QmP scale. They are sweeter in style ranging from Auslese to ethereal dessert wines such as Beerenauslese (BA), Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) and Eiswein (Ice Wine). And even though these wines have a high level of ripeness and residual sugar, when produced properly, their corresponding acidity creates a remarkable mouthfeel and play of flavors.
How long can you age Riesling Wines?
Here's how long you can age the different harvests of German Rieslings:
Kabinett: 3-5 years
Spätlese: 5-10 years
Auslese: up to 25 years
Beerenauslese (BA): up to 40 years
Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): up to 80 years
Ice Wine: up to 100 years
What makes German Riesling the best?
Germany has the most dynamic microclimate in the world for growing Riesling, which coincidentally is also very well suited for the thin skinned and finicky Pinot Noir grape. Germany also has a much longer ripening window due to its northernmost latitude for growing grapes (49 - 51 degrees latitude), allowing it to produce wonderfully high levels of both sugar and acidity. These are the two most important elements in any great wine and are an ideal compliment with food!
By law, high quality (QmP) wines must be produced naturally with no additives or chemicals to alter the flavor or alcohol level. And in addition to what the law requires, German vintners tend to be environmentally conscious with many practicing organic and biodynamic growing methods, which assure that the wines maintain a crystal clear integrity.
A German Riesling can have such charisma and charm that its length transcends ordinary and becomes extraordinary. We have had clients call us fifteen minutes after experiencing a well made late harvest to tell us they are still enjoying it!
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About the author: Nearly a decade ago, Damon met German native Sabrina in San Diego, where they later decided to develop their import and wholesale company. Truly Fine Wine, Inc. started with a summer fling. Every true wine lovers dream, they specialize in micro vintners of esoteric German Rieslings, Pinot Noirs and high end dessert wines.
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