How to tell if the German Riesling is going to be sweet or dry

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Whatever your desires are regarding the dryness or sweetness of the wine, Riesling has it all. You just need to know these few things to decode the label.

Riesling is a great grape that reflects it’s surroundings in its flavours. But how sweet or dry the Riesling is, depends on the winemaker. For simplicity, I’m going to talk about the German Riesling only and maybe later I will add more information about Riesling from Alsace or other regions.

There are two main categories of German Riesling Qualitätswein and Prädikatswein.

Qualitätswein is usually light-bodied, fruity refreshing and DRY.

Prädikatswein wines are categorized by the sugar level in the grapes. The list is ordered from dry to sweet:

Kabinett – light body with high acidity, green fruit notes (apple, grape). Low/medium sweetness depends on the alcohol level (more alcohol, less sweetness)

Spätlese (late harvest) – more body, notes of citrus, lemon, pineapple

Auslese (selected harvest of whole wine bunches) – even more body, notes of exotic fruit (pineapple, mango).

Beerenauslese – BA (grape selection) – This is an officially sweet wine. The sugar level is 260g per litre (62 teaspoons of sugar) The sugar is natural because those grapes are “raisinated”.

Eiswine (ice wine) – grapes were frozen on the wine and then pressed. The sugar level is around 260g per litre (62 teaspoons of sugar).

Trockenbeerenauslese – TBA (dry grapes selection) 300+ g per litre (72 teaspoons of sugar).

General terms for German sweetness level:
Trocken / Selection – dry 9g/L
Halbtrocken / Classic – between dry and off-dry, up to 18g/L
Feinherb – off-dry similar to Halbtrocken
Liebliche – sweet wine up to 45 g/ L
Süß / Süss -sweet wine more than 45 g/L

If you come across Czech wine they have same sweetness grading as Prädikatswein:

Kabinet = Kabinett
Pozdní sběr = Spätlese
Výběr z hroznů = Auslese
Výběr z bobulí = Beerenauslese
Ledové víno = Eiswine
Výběr z cibéb = Trockenbeerenauslese


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