I am fond of dry, crisp white wines with decent acidity but disappointed with my purchases of German wines regardless of the professional reviewer’s rating or the wine’s price. Their labels are confusing and I have been left staring at the wine shelves only to turn and buy a nice French Picpoul or an Alsatian Riesling or Pinot Gris. I am comfortable with my Old World bigotry but within the Old World I do like to drink around. It is high time that I did some basic research and look at the German system for labeling wines.
Consider these three main issues when purchasing German wine:
QbA Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete
Growing region must be shown on the label, it is an everyday table wine similar to France’s VdP designation. Alcohol must be at least 7%, chaptalization is common and the resulting wines range from dry to semi-sweet.
QmP Prädikatswein, formerly Qualitätswein mit Prädikat
Germany’s best wine regarded as ‘quality wine with specific attributes’. Chaptalization is not allowed but the wines typically show a trace of residual sugar. The Prädikat (ripeness level) indication is designated on the wine label and means:
Typically, semi-sweet with good acidity made from fully ripen grapes.
Typically, semi-sweet and often fruitier and maybe sweeter than Kabinett, the grapes must be harvested, at least, 7 days after the normal harvest. Spätlese equates to late harvest but isn’t as sweet as a dessert wine and might even be a full bodied dry wine.
Produced from extremely ripe grapes, the wine is typically semi-sweet or sweet but might be dry. This designation covers the widest range of wine styles.
Sweet dessert wine
Produced from grapes that were left to freeze on the vine, an ice wine.
The trocken does not mean this is a dry wine, rather that the grapes have been left to shrivel on the vine before harvest. Additionally, these wines are made from grapes infected with noble rot.
Trocken Dry or sec
Halbtrocken Half-dry or demi-sec
Feinherb Sweeter than halbtrocken
Weißwein White wine
Rotwein Red Wine
Roséwein Rosé wine
Perhaps to make this more confusing there is an Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates indicated by the VDP logo, usually on the capsule, which depicts an eagle grasping a cluster of grapes. VDP members can use two additional designations for their top-level dry wines:
Erste Lage and Grosses Gewächs
Next time its the QmP Spätlese Trocken Weißwein for me. Certainly not a guarantee for a great wine but likely better than what I bought before.