Reply to "Auction Riesling"

Thanks for the… uh… lob, ArieS.

The quick answer would be what grunhauser said. Or, did you mean to ask, “What’s the difference between Riesling Spatlese and Riesling Auslese?” Here’s a brief answer for the revised question, which touches on Germany’s complex wine classification system.

Riesling Spatlese and Riesling Auslese are both wines made in Germany from the Riesling grape.

When you locate Germany on the map, you’ll notice that it’s pretty far north where the summers are fairly short and chilly. This means that the grapes have a hard time ripening before the autumn rains and frosts.

Since ripeness is hard to achieve, ripeness -- the amount of sugar in the grape at harvest -- became the measure for the top quality category of German wines. The wines in this top category are all labeled QmP or Qualitatswein mit Pradikat, which means roughly “quality wines with special attributes.”

What does the harvest have to do with ripeness? Basically, the later the grapes are harvested and the more selective the pickers are in harvesting the grapes, the more sugar is concentrated in the grapes. To get only the ripest grapes, some vineyards are harvested up to seven or eight times throughout the autumn.

What effect does grape ripeness have on the wine? The amount of sugar in the grapes at harvest is related to the wine's mouthfilling richness; the higher the sugars in the grape, the richer and more full-bodied the wine.

Within the QmP category, there are six levels of ripeness. Three levels go with dinner and three levels go with dessert.

The dinner wines, in order of increasing ripeness and body, are:

Kabinett: At the entry level of the QmP wines, Kabinetts are usually low in alcohol, with a tangy acidity at the finish. The wines can be dry (you might find the term for dry, “trocken,” on the label), off-dry (halb-trocken) or sweet. Usually the drier the wine, the higher the alcohol.

Spätlese: Literally "late harvest," this wine is usually richer than Kabinett. The wines can be dry, off-dry or sweet.

Auslese: Translated as "selected harvest," this wine is made from carefully selected bunches of late harvest grapes with higher-than-average sugar concentrations; the wines are usually off-dry or sweet.


Briefly stated, the dessert wines within the QmP are:

Beerenauslese: BA for short, means select berry harvest

Trockenbeerenauslese: TBA for short, means dried berry harvest

Eiswein: means ice wine and is made from high-BA- or TBA-level grapes that were frozen on the vine

Hopefully you’ve found that explanation helpful, ArieS? Does that raise more questions?

The Riesling-heads in this forum know that this answer barely scratches the surface of the topic, which has been the subject of tomes that compete in weight with the Gutenberg bible. They are welcome to weigh in with their own insights… because there’s always more to learn.
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