We all know these terms: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese. For many wine lovers, the Prädikat level of a quality wine, which is based on the degree of Öchsle of the grapes, is the most important of the legally required information on a wine label. In hardly any other country is there such a great difference in wine quality as in Germany. There are six different Prädikats, again with different minimum must weights depending on the grape variety and growing region. In most southern growing areas, higher requirements apply.
The Prädikats in ascending order:
- Kabinett: fine, light wines from ripe grapes with low alcohol content
- Spätlese: ripe, elegant wines with fine fruit, which are harvested a little later. These wines are more intense in flavor and concentration, but not necessarily sweet.
- Auslese: fine noble wines from fully ripe grapes, unripe berries are separated out. Often intense in aromas and taste but not always sweet.
- Beerenauslese (BA): full, fruity wines made from individually-selected, overripe berries that are usually infected by Botrytis cinerea (noble rot). These are rarities, harvested only when exceptional weather conditions enable the grapes to ripen to this extent. They are notable for their longevity (can be stored for decades). Remarkably rich, sweet dessert wines, or to be enjoyed by themselves.
- Ice wine: made from grapes as ripe as BA, but harvested when it is at least minus 7 degrees celsius and pressed while frozen so that only the fruit concentrate is squeezed out. Truly unique wines with a remarkable concentration of fruity acidity and sweetness. They are becoming more of a rarity as Germany experiences warmer winters and the minimum temperature needed for harvesting is occurring less often.
- Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): This is the top of the quality pyramid, rare wines from shrunken, shriveled, noble rot berries, that cannot be harvested every vintage. These rich, sweet, luscious, honey-like wines can age for decades.