I remember a few months ago I was off for a road trip with my dad. We were sat in the car at Dover waiting to drive onto the chunnel, and we got to talking about wines he drunk back in the 70s and 80s. I remember him almost physically shuddering when he mentioned Riesling! I couldn’t work out why for a while, but then I realised that what puts so many people off German Riesling is that they buy a bottle and have no idea what it’s going to be like!
It’s not just as simple of knowing whether it’s going to taste of apples, or of peaches, or something like that. This is as big as whether it’ll be a dry wine, or a super sweet dessert wine. If you don’t know the wording on the label then you’re struggling.
So, what are the words and what do they mean? Germans have words they use to rate the sweetness of the grapes that made the wine, not the wine itself. So in order the words that’re going to sit on the bottle are…
Kabinett – Lowest sugar in the grape
Spätlese – Late harvest, more sugar
Auslese – Specially selected grapes that raisin on the vine
Beerenauslese – Noble rotted sweet grapes
Trockenbeerenauslese – Even sweeter noble rotted grapes
Kabinett, Spãtlese, Auslese are the ones you usually see in the shops. They can be a range of sweetness, from dry to medium sweet. Best way of working it out is by looking at the alcoholic content. Low alcohol will mean sweet wine, and viceversa. These are very rough ideas of what to look at…
Kabinett 8% (off dry) to 12% (dry)
Spätlese 9% (medium dry) to 13% (dry)
Auselese 10.5% (medium sweet) to 14% (dry)
Anyway, that’s a very rough idea of what to look for. This week I’ve got an 8% Kabinett, which I expect to be off dry (slightly sweet), and a 12% Kabinett which will be dry (“trocken” is the German word for dry).
That all make sense?
Other posts in #NWTW Week 28: