Germany has long been an enigma in the wine world. With prices now leveling out at similar to those prices charged for the same wines at the turn of the last century. Fashion has changed but not really the wines. Maybe they are being made very slightly drier than the wines of 100 years ago, but otherwise the system is in place to take care of quality control in a very German way.
The quality is indicated by the sugar level which is good because it defines the body of the wine. Sugar is tested at the AP Testing station for each batch of wine and it is given a quality stamp based on how much sugar is in the wine. The sugar can be fermented into alcohol giving higher ABV, normally over 12.5% and these wines are indicated with the word “trocken”.
The Germans have another category for half dry fermented wines at Halbtrocken. These wines are fruity yet dry, acidic on the finish but with top fruit flavours on the palate. Medium tasting wines are often referred to as Mild or Lieblich.
The pure wines or QMP categories state the sugar level with each sub category. Kabinett is the least sugar usually used for dinner wines, Spatlese means late picked so these have a little more sugar. Moving up the scale Auslese means individually selected late harvested bunches of grapes that are even sweeter.
Beerenauslese indicates that berries were individually picked and late harvested and the top category is Trockenbeerenauslese which gives the wrong impression that it might be dry. In this sense the trocken refers to dried out berries that have been late harvested and hand selected for their ripeness. It could take up to 20kg of grapes to make a Trockenbeerenauslese and often when I worked in Germany near Mainz I would be called by one of the vineyard owners to help with the harvest of these selected berries. Careful picking ensures the very finest quality and would keep the price high. A good estate bottled Trockenbeerenauslese could fetch up to £80.00 per bottle and could last over 50 years.
My advice with German wines is to experiment. They are terrific value at present and if you spend £10.00 on a bottle you will get something of real quality with diversity of flavour and uniqueness that really puts the standard flavoured Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays into the shade.
Barrels & Bottles were recently appointed the UK agent for the Bremer Ratskeller in Bremen, the finest collection of individual estate bottled German wines in the World. With wines for sale going back to 1756 and in the UK range priced from £7.99 to £85.00 per bottle for a red Eiswein ( frozen grapes when picked in the middle of the night) there really is something for everyone. Go on give Germany a try, you wont regret it.
An article by Andrew Coghlan for “City Business”Share and Enjoy: