About German Wine

Riesling, Riesling, Riesling – almost certainly the first thing that springs to mind when we talk about Germany, but did you know it is also one of the largest producers of Pinot Noir in the world? These two grape varieties, one of which is notorious for being one of the trickiest to grow (Pinot Noir) and the other (Riesling) offers a huge variety of styles.

German Wine Regions
  • Mosel: Riesling
  • Nahe: Riesling
  • Rhiengau: Riesling, Spätburgunder
  • Pflaz: Riesling, Spätburgunder
  • Baden: Riesling, Spätburgunder


German wine has an unfortunate history of being associated with sweet (and not in a good way) ‘Riesling’. Much of what was labelled this grape in the 1970s onwards would have most likely been something else that was nowhere near as noble! In reality there is so much more to Germany, and Riesling, than this. This is exactly why the classification of Pradikatswein is in place to help drinkers understand the varied styles of Riesling. The only problem is…it’s quite a lot to get your head around!

Put simply, it breaks the wine down into categories of must weight, so the level of sugar in the grapes when picked. However, and here comes the confusing bit, higher sugar doesn’t necessarily correlate to a sweet wine, it just means there is a potential for higher alcohol and therefore most often, a dry wine. Confused yet?

German wine production stages

Kabinett – These are the grapes that are picked first and are therefore the most delicate. Light in body, high in acidity and can be either sweet or dry.

Spätlese – Translates to ‘Late-Harvest’ as these grapes are left to hang for a little longer and develop more concentration. The flavours of the wine will start to move from zippy citrus to riper stone fruit and will have a higher ABV than Kabinett wines, but can still be dry or sweet in style.

Auslese – This is the last level of the Pradikats where the wines can still be made it a dry style, although the diversity of styles that can be made at this level are extensive. These bunches are extra ripe and individually selected during hand picking, resulting in an even riper style than Spätlese.

Beerenauslese – This is a sweet wine that has been made from individually selected grapes that have most likely been affected by noble rot (botrytis).

Eiswien – Literally translates to ‘Ice-Wine’. These are noble rot affected grapes that have been left to freeze on the vine and are typically picked in January during the night, once the vineyard temperature has reached around -8˚C. This means when the grapes are pressed frozen water remains in the press and the juice that is extracted is pure, high in acid, very concentrated and super sweet.

Trockenbeernauslese – This style of sweet wine is incredibly rare and comes at a premium price. These wines are only made in outstanding vintages where individual grapes which have undergone extreme noble rot and have shrivelled to the point that they are raisins when picked! There is very little juice to extract but what they can press is ethereal! The quantity of this is wine is understandably very limited.

In the vineyard

The vineyards in Germany are classified a cool climate and are at the very limit of what is considered an effective grape growing region. The vineyards are situated on steep south facing slopes, in close proximity to a river and often on slate soils. This means the sun can reflect off of both of these sources and help the ripening process of the grapes.

Hennings Wine says

It’s easy to be put off by German wine as it is quite confusing! Hopefully our guide can help you a little when trying to find the style you are after. Failing that, check out the dry Villa Wolf wines, made by acclaimed producer Dr Loosen, with labelling that makes the German wine selecting a dream!

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