Germany has one of the most unique quality classifications and regulations for wine. The quality levels in the country and regions are determined by a variety of different criteria. Some are common, others have meaning only in certain regions. In Germany with the German wine law of 1971 a division was created, which links the quality level of wine based on ripeness(sugar) level of grape upon harvest time. Sugar content of grape juice is determined by density with measurement called Oechsle.
Based on this measurement wines are divided into four main categories.
- Prädikatswein, Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)
- Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA)
Tafelwein (table wine) is the lowest category of wines.
Landwein is the second quality level of the wine. Must be dry (trocken) or (halbtrocken) wine. These are made from slightly riper grapes. Usually chaptalization used to increase sugar level.
Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) (quality wine from a recognized region) Second highest quality wines. These wines are permitted to list the region on the label. This classification permitted to use chaptalization and allowed to have Süssreserve (unfermented grape juice) to help balance with their naturally high acidity.
Prädikatswein, Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) (quality wine with special attributes) Superior quality dry, semidry and sweet wines. Divided into six designations.
- Kabinett Least sweet wines of this category. Wines are usually high in acidity. Therefore can be produced dry but usually off-dry or semisweet. Süssreserve permitted.
- Spätlese “late harvest” These wines made from grapes that have been left for ripen more fully. Wine are usually a bit more sweeter but can be made dry to sweet.
- Auslese “selected harvest” These wines made from grapes that have been left for overripe and have to be hand picked. Can be made dry wines but usually made semisweet or desert wines.
- Beerenauslese BA “selected harvest of berries” These wines made from selected overripe grapes that have been affected by Edelfäule (noble rot). Wines are intensely sweet because of high sugar levels.
- Eiswein “ice wine” refers to wines produced from partially frozen grapes. Frozen grapes pressed to separate frozen water and resulting highly concentrated must to produce world-class desert wines. .
- Trockenbeerenauslese TBA “dried berries selection” is the style designation for wines that are produced in only the finest vintages, from grapes that have been affected by Edelfäule and left to shrived up on the vine. These wine are extremely limited and expensive because near perfect conditions are necessary for grapes to reach this point.