Notes from our Sommelier
Germany is home to some of the coldest vineyards in the world located far north of the traditional 50 degree longitude line than most wine regions are near. With a history of cold years and cold vintages germany wine quality quickly became focused on the ripeness of the grapes before anything else, resulting in a system for labeling bottles and their quality far different from the traditional methods used in France or Italy.
Regional wine rarely exported
Wine is required to come from one of the 13 major wine regions. Generally is fermented dry or off dry. This category includes lower quality sweet wines as well as the highest quality dry wines.
A system of ranking the quality of German wines based on ripeness at harvest. Because this is based on ripeness at harvest some ( only a few) of these wines are dry. There are six quality levels with the last 3 being designated to styles of dessert wine.
- Kabinette: The lightest style made from grapes picked at traditional ripeness levels can be dry or off dry.
- Spatlese: or Late Harvest, made from grapes picked a few days to a few weeks after the traditional ripeness level, the increased time in the sun results in high sugar content in the grapes resulting in fuller body off dry wines.
- Auslese: or Select Harvest, Grapes are hand harvested selecting only bunches infected with Botrytis. These wines are generally sweet if labeled Trocken; they are dry with a higher ABV level.
- Beerenauslese: or Berry Select Harvest, Grapes are completely infected with Botrytis and selected out of bunches of grapes; these wines are sweet rare dessert wines.
- Eiswein: or Ice Wine, rare dessert wines made from grapes that freeze on the vine and are pressed and crushed while frozen.
- Trockenbeerenauslese: or Dry Berry Select Harvest made from grapes that partially rasinate on the vine and are then harvested and crushed. (similar to the italian appassimento process) These wines are the rarest and most sought after.
Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) is an independent association of roughly 200 wine producers that classify vineyards. While not Part of the official EU designation the VDP is extremely well recognized and generally considered the best dry german wines. They are know for the following vineyard quality classifications.
- VDP.Ortswein or Local village wine, High quality vineyards within a village area labeled with a vineyard site name.
- VDP.Erste Lage or First site, Vineyards designated first class with stricter growing standards. All wines are certified by a tasting panel.
- VDP.Grosses Gewächs / VDP.Grosse Lage or “Great site”/ ”Great growth.” A designation of the best vineyards with increased growing standards. Wines labeled Grosses Gewächs (GG) must be dry.
Top Grape Varieties of Germany
- Riesling ( 1/5th of all wine)
- Muller Thurgau