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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.
Last week, I wrote about the dry riesling found in Nahe, Germany and the fact that 90 percent of German wine is dry. But fruity, sweet wines do still exist in Germany, specifically produced in the Mosel, Nahe and Rhinegau regions.
When we talk about “sweet” wine in Germany, we are not talking about overly sweet, cloying wines. We are talking about wines of finesse. These are wines with fragrance, fruity acidity and a mineral undertone. We are talking about riesling, considered the king of wine grapes in Germany. Of all the white wine grapes, riesling grapes produce the most intense and flavorful wines.
Unlike the dry riesling which is categorized under the VDP (“Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter”) system, the sweeter wines are classified under the traditional Pradikatswein. The levels of sweetness will vary and are dependent on when the grapes are picked. There is trocken (dry), kabinett (off-dry), spatlese (late harvest), auslese (select harvest), beerenauslese (berry select harvest) and trockenbeerenauslese (“dry berry select harvest”).
To differentiate between these different styles, it was best described to me by a winemaker who likened these styles to bananas. Kabinett is described as the perfectly yellow banana whereas spatlese is a banana with brown spots. Auslese is the banana that is almost entirely brown and trockenbeerenauslese is a dehydrated, concentrated banana.