The German Wine Classification System and International Riesling Day

Riesling grapes (Image courtesy Wikipedia)
Riesling grapes (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

In celebration of International Riesling Day on March 13, I thought I would talk about the wine classification system of Germany, as many quality Riesling wines come from Germany and these wines are held as benchmarks for the rest of the world.

The German wine classification system is divided into four levels.

Tafelwein is the lowest level of the German wine classification system and refers to table wine. Tafelwein can be made from any grape variety and can be produced in any region of Germany. Unlike the higher levels of the classification system, there are no strict regulations regarding grape varieties, yields, or winemaking methods. As a result, Tafelwein can vary greatly in quality and taste. Tafelwein is often produced in large quantities and is intended for everyday consumption rather than for special occasions or cellaring. Despite its lower status in the classification system, there are many high-quality Tafelweins produced by skilled winemakers who focus on crafting delicious and affordable wines.

Landwein is the second level in the German wine classification system, and it designates a higher quality wine than Tafelwein. Landwein is produced in specific regions of Germany and must adhere to certain regulations regarding grape varieties and winemaking methods. The maximum yield per hectare is also limited to ensure that the grapes used in Landwein production are of high quality. Landwein is typically made from grape varieties that are well-suited to the specific region where it is produced, which can give it a distinct flavour profile. While Landwein is not as strict in its regulations as the higher levels of the classification system, it is still a quality wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with food.

Qualitätswein is the third level in the German wine classification system and is a designation that guarantees a high level of quality. To be labeled as Qualitätswein, the wine must come from one of the 13 designated wine regions in Germany, and it must meet strict requirements regarding grape varieties, yields, and winemaking methods. The grape varieties used must be approved for the specific region where the wine is produced, and the maximum yield per hectare is limited to ensure that the grapes used are of high quality. Qualitätswein must also meet specific quality standards, including minimum levels of alcohol content and must weight, which measures the amount of sugar in the grapes. Qualitätswein is typically a dry or off-dry wine that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with food, and it is considered a benchmark for quality German wine.

Prädikatswein is the highest level in the German wine classification system and designates a wine of exceptional quality. To be labeled as Prädikatswein, the wine must meet even stricter requirements than Qualitätswein, including being made from fully ripened grapes that have been picked at specific times based on their ripeness levels. There are six categories of Prädikatswein, which are based on the must weight of the grapes used in production. These categories include Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and Eiswein, with each category representing a higher level of sweetness and intensity. Prädikatswein is typically a sweet wine that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with desserts, and it is highly prized by wine enthusiasts for its complexity, balance, and depth of flavour.

Here are 5 popular Prädikatswein Riesling wines:

  1. Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese
    Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese

    Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese: This wine comes from the Mosel region and is known for its intense fruit flavors and mineral notes (available at BC Liquor stores).

  2. Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese: Another wine from the Mosel region, this Riesling is known for its elegant balance of sweetness and acidity.

  3. Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese: This wine from the Mosel region has a vibrant acidity and a touch of sweetness that balances its citrus and stone fruit flavors. (The Kabinett version of this wine is available at BC Liquor stores.)

  4. Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese: From the Saar region, this Riesling has a complex array of flavors that include honey, apricot, and floral notes. (Available at BC Liquor stores.)

  5. Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Auslese: This wine comes from the Nahe region and is known for its rich, full-bodied texture and layers of tropical fruit flavors.

Sweetness Levels of German Wine

German wine is also known for its range of sweetness levels, which are often indicated on the label using terms like trocken, halbtrocken, feinherb, and lieblich. Trocken means dry, and wines labeled as trocken are typically fermented until all of the grape sugars have been converted into alcohol, resulting in a wine that is crisp and acidic with little residual sugar. Halbtrocken means half-dry, and wines labeled as halbtrocken have a small amount of residual sugar that gives them a slightly sweeter taste. Feinherb means off-dry, and wines labeled as feinherb have a slightly higher level of residual sugar than halbtrocken wines, which gives them a more pronounced sweetness. Lieblich means sweet, and wines labeled as lieblich have a higher level of residual sugar, which gives them a noticeably sweet taste.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy a glass of Riesling wine today and throughout the year!  Don’t forget that BC makes delicious Riesling wines as well.

Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.