A glass of German Riesling can transport you to a world of exquisite flavors and aromas. But what makes German Rieslings so special?
To truly appreciate these wines, it’s important to learn about the Prädikat system and the classifications it entails: Kabinett, Auslese, and Spätlese.
In this article, we’ll explore the significance of these classifications and the differences that make each one unique.
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The German Prädikat System
The Prädikat (superior quality wine) system is a way to classify German wines based on ripeness at harvest. It ensures that you know what you’re getting in terms of sweetness and style.
Ripeness is the most important factor in this system. The riper the grapes, the more sugar they contain, resulting in sweeter wines.
The six Prädikat levels on German wine labels differ in terms of ripeness and sweetness, giving wine lovers a spectrum of options to explore:
These wines are light and delicate, offering a crisp, fresh profile with a touch of sweetness. They are typically the least sweet among the Prädikat categories.
“Spätlese” translates to “late harvest.” These wines come from grapes harvested later in the season when they have achieved greater ripeness. As a result, they have a bit more sweetness and body than Kabinett wines.
Auslese wines are made from selected, riper grapes. They are sweeter and richer than Kabinett and Spätlese, often with pronounced fruit and honey notes.
“Beerenauslese” means “berry select harvest.” These wines are crafted from individually selected grapes affected by noble rot (Botrytis cinerea). They are very sweet and luscious, with concentrated flavors of dried fruits and honey.
Trockenbeerenauslese (dry berry select harvest) wines are made from individually picked grapes that have shriveled to a raisin-like state due to noble rot. They are exceptionally sweet wines, with a syrupy texture and intense honeyed, apricot flavors.
Eiswein, or “ice wine,” is made from grapes that freeze naturally on the vine. These grapes are pressed while frozen, resulting in a highly concentrated, intensely sweet ice wine with vibrant acidity and flavors of honey, apricot, and tropical fruits.
While Kabinett, Spätlese, and Auslese are the most commonly encountered Prädikat levels, the Prädikat system encompasses a wider range of wines, each offering a unique sweetness profile.
Kabinett – The Entry-Level Elegance
Kabinett wines are known for their lightness and delicacy.
Kabinett Rieslings are typically crisp and fresh, with notes of green apple, citrus, and floral aromas. They’re perfect for those who prefer dry wine.
Kabinett wines are versatile and pair well with a variety of foods, including seafood, salads, and light chicken dishes.
Auslese – The Noble Selection
Auslese wines are made from grapes that have achieved higher ripeness levels. This results in a fuller-bodied wine with a touch of sweetness that balances the acidity.
Expect rich flavors of ripe fruit, honey, and even a hint of tropical notes in Auslese Rieslings. The sweetness is more pronounced compared to Kabinett.
Auslese wines have more concentrated flavors and a sweeter profile than Kabinett wines. They are often considered a step up in terms of complexity and richness.
Auslese wines are ideal with spicy Asian dishes, foie gras, or rich desserts.
Spätlese – The Late Harvest Beauty
Spätlese involves picking grapes later in the season when they have achieved even greater ripeness and sweetness.(1)
Spätlese Rieslings are luscious and full-bodied, with an exquisite balance of sweetness and acidity. You’ll find flavors of apricot, peach, and a touch of honey.
Spätlese wines have the highest level of ripeness and sweetness among the three classifications, making them the sweetest and most luxurious.
Pair Spätlese Rieslings with creamy dishes, pâté, or desserts like apple pie.
Rieslings, including Kabinett, Auslese, and Spätlese, have impressive aging potential. The high acidity in Riesling wines helps them develop complexity and improve with time.
As Rieslings age, they may develop petrol-like aromas and evolve into richer, more mature wines. Cellaring allows you to experience the changing personality of these wines.
Kabinett wines are best enjoyed young, while Auslese and Spätlese can age for several decades, improving in character.
In the world of German wine, Kabinett, Auslese, and Spätlese represent a spectrum of sweetness and ripeness that offers something for every palate. Whether you’re enjoying a crisp Kabinett with a light meal or savoring the rich sweetness of a Spätlese, these wines showcase the depth and diversity of German winemaking.
So, why not take the plunge? Don’t hesitate to explore the world of German Rieslings and develop a deeper appreciation for these delightful and distinct wines.
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