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Qualität im Sinn

Our wine portfolio starts off where quality also literally begins in the Wine Law: with quality wines. In France such wines bear the appellation AOC (Italy, Spain and other countries have similar classifications), meaning wines originating from specific wine-growing regions. In Germany all quality levels above that of a ‘quality wine’ receive what is called a ‘Prädikat’, i.e. an official classification. In Germany the important feature determining the quality level and the ‘Prädikat’ is not a specific location (terroir), but the must weight (measured in degrees Öchsle), i.e. the ripeness of the grape juice. The must-weight levels are set as legally stipulated lower limits in degrees Öchsle, in other words the designation is based on a minimum, but can be higher. A quality-oriented wine estate will always strive to do better than the minimum. Therefore, we don’t base ourselves on the minimum requirements when deciding whether a wine is to be a Kabinett or a Spätlese, but always on whether it fits in with our idea of what a typical Kabinett or a typical Spätlese is.

In order to make the quality of our wines transparent, we state the levels of our entire wine portfolio in degrees Öchsle.

Quality levels under Germany’s Wine Law

  • Wines with no detailed indication of their origin are in the lowest quality category. Up until 2009 they were sold under the designation ‘Tafelwein’ (table wine). From now on these wines are simply called ‘Wein’ (wine), for example ‘Deutscher Wein’ (German wine) or ‘Deutscher Wein Riesling’ (German wine Riesling) or ‘Deutscher Riesling’ (German Riesling) if the grape variety is stated.
  • ‘Landwein’ (a superior table wine) is wine with a regionally typical character. It is always dry or half-dry, and its region of origin must be declared on the label.
  • ‘Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA)’ (quality wine from specified wine-growing regions) must come 100% from the specified wine-growing area and the grape varieties permitted there. It must be typical for the grape variety and area. Just like ‘Qualitätswein mit Prädikat’, such quality wines must have passed an official quality control (including a sensory one). The quality-controlled wine is granted an official quality control number, or AP number for short (‘amtliche Prüfungsnummer’, or ‘AP-Nr.’), which must feature on the label.
  • ‘Prädikatsweine’ (‘Prädikat wines’) have to satisfy the highest requirements regarding grape variety, ripeness, harmony and elegance. There are six different quality levels in this group, with differing minimum must weights depending on grape variety and growing region.

Quality levels (‘Prädikate’) in ascending order

Kabinett (the grapes for this are the earliest harvested)min. 73° Öchslefine, light wines made from ripened grapes with low alcohol content
Spätlese (‘late picked’)min. 85° Öchsleripe, elegant wines with fine fruit that are harvested somewhat later
Auslese (‘selectively picked’)min. 95° Öchslenoble wines from fully ripened selected grapes, unripened berries are rejected
Eiswein (‘ice wine’)min. 110° Öchslefrom grapes that have the same minimum must weight as for a Beerenauslese and that were in a frozen condition when harvested at below minus 7°C and then crushed while frozen. This means that only the fruit pulp is pressed
Beerenauslese (‘berries selectively picked’)min. 110° Öchslefull fruity wines from overripe, noble rot berries; the Botrytis cinerea mould (noble rot) adds to the quality; they can be kept for decades, however, it is not possible to harvest such wines in every vintage year
Trockenbeerenauslese (‘dry berries selectively picked’)min. 150° Öchslefrom shrivelled, raisin-like noble rot berries, this wine forms the apex of the quality pyramid; sweet and honeyed, it is of extreme longevity and can be stored over many decades

For further information see the website of the Deutsches Weininstitut.
The story behind Spätlese wine

Back in the past, the grape harvest in the Johannisberg Abbey (Propstei) area could only begin when a horse-mounted courier delivered written permission from the Prince-Bishop of Fulda.

In 1775 the Abbey’s Benedictine Abbot was close to despair because the ‘harvest rider’ turned up a whole 14 days too late. Although the grapes were already shrivelled and had what was thought at the time to be a harmful mould, it was decided to harvest and press them anyway. The result must have come as quite a shock – because wine drinkers of that time are recorded as saying they had never tasted such a good wine in their entire lives before. This is the event that launched the Spätlese’s success story and appreciation of what is known as noble rot.

There are at least two versions of why the delay happened. One is that the Prince-Bishop was out hunting and was thus not reachable for granting the necessary permission. The other says that the courier was taken prisoner and held by highwaymen. At least one thing is for certain: it was not drinking too much Spätlese wine that made him late, because it definitely only came about after his historic belated appearance!