The German Prädikat System
In Germany, a single wine estate may decide to make upwards of a dozen individual wines (from dry to sweet) based on grapes picked at different times (and ripeness levels) during a harvest. The wines are best understood when broken down into the following categories:
Lower alcohol, delicate, floral with some degree of residual sugar
Dry and full bodied:
Higher alcohol (11–13%), somewhat powerful and assertive, still aromatic
Rich and sweet:
Dessert-style wines with very ripe, complex flavors and a palate-coating consistency
German wines are classified by law, based upon the ripeness of grapes. This system is undergoing some changes, but these terms are still relevant and helpful. Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA), the basic level of “quality wine” in Germany and guaranteeing that grapes are of a certain ripeness and from one of the thirteen legally designated wine regions. In addition, QbA wines can be chaptalized.
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)
QmP means literally “quality wines with distinction” and is used to distinguish German wines of superior quality. These wines carry one of the six Prädikats, giving us clues as to what style of wine is in the bottle:
Light styled, sweet wines. These wines are clean and refreshing, and are best enjoyed either before a meal or when paired with seafood and shellfish.
These wines can be made dry to sweet. Drier Spätlese wines tend to be better with savory foods; sweeter Spätlese tend to pair well with spicy dishes.
These are select harvest wines made from very ripe hand-picked clusters with a fraction affected by Botrytis mold. Auslese wines can also be made from dry to sweet. Drier Auslese wines are generally better with food. Sweeter Auslese wines exhibit a richness, concentration and complexity often better savored on their own.
Rich, dessert-style wines crafted from individually selected berries (Beeren) usually affected by Botrytis mold. These are concentrated wines with deep color.
Very rich, unctuous style (110 Oechsle minimum). Crafted from individually selected berries that have become withered to the point of raisins. These wines are quite rare and have a richness like honey. They are some of the most expensive wines in the world.
Eiswein—Literally “ice wine”
These dessert wines are made from grapes left on the vine very late into the season, harvested and pressed when frozen.