Demystifying the labels – A short German wine phrasebook

Grosses Gewächs – literally ‘great growth’, used to designate top level dry wines from specific sites – think French ‘Grand Cru’. Trocken – meaning dry, these whites are amongst the best value and most enjoyable.

Kabinett – Light wines made with fully-ripened grapes, these traditionally have some sweetness balanced with crisp acidity. However, in certain examples, such as the wines of Dönnhoff, the wines are so supremely balanced that they are, to all intents and purposes, dry.

Spätlese – ‘Late Harvest’ wines typically have a delicious sweetness but are not dessert wines. They shouldn’t be confused with the frequent use of the term to designate dessert wines throughout the world.

Auslese – ‘Select Harvest’ wines, made from hand-picked, very ripe bunches. Covering a wide range of styles, Auslese can have some noble rot character, and its sweetness can reach into the realms of dessert wine.

Beerenauslese (BA) – ‘Select Berry Harvest’, made from hand-picked grapes often affected by noble rot, these wines are wonderfully rich and sweet.

Eiswein – Ice Wine made from grapes which have naturally frozen on the vine, creating a lusciously sweet, concentrated wine.

Trockenberenauslese (TBA) – ‘Select Dry Berry Harvest’, very rare and made from shrivelled, overripe grapes, usually affected by noble rot. The use of the prefix ‘trocken-’ refers to the dried grapes, rather than the resulting style, which is lusciously sweet.

Goldkapsel – Usually designated by gold foil on the bottle, but with no legal meaning, interpretations vary from producer to producer. For our producers, Dönnhoff and Dr Loosen, this term signifies a high level of Botrytis in Auslese wines.


Published on 18/09/2015 / By Robbie Toothill