Classification System: Austria vs Germany

A couple weeks I attended a class through the ASA with Aldo Sohm. He pointed out that while the stylistic labeling system of Austrian and German wines is quite similar, it is far from the same.

Here’s the rundown:

Germany: German wines are classified by the ripeness level of the grapes NOT the degree of sweetness in the wines, even though the ripeness is determined by the sugar levels of the grapes. The residual sugar in the wines is determined by the winemaker’s fermentation process. The riper the grapes are upon harvest determines their category.

Kabinett: Usually lighter styled wines made from fully ripe grapes. Generally lighter in alcohol.  In order for a wine to be classified as Kabinett in Germany, the wine’s acid must be within a given percentage in relation to it’s residual sugar level. Although most consumers expect Kabinett wines to be dry they vary from dry to sweet.

Spatlese: Late harvested grapes hosting a fuller, more intense flavor. These grapes generally dry and ripen on the vine which increases the fruit and flavors of the grape. Like kabinett, these wines can range from dry to sweet.

Auslese: The best of the selected late-harvested bunches. Generally intense on the nose and palate and are generally crafted as dessert wines although they too can range from dry to sweet.

Beerenauslese ( BA): Selected late harvested bunches made lusciously sweet dessert wines.

Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): Literally means “dried berries” as they are picked when the are overripe and shrivled on the vines. These make honey-like, intense dessert wines.

Eiswein: Made from frozen grapes that are at least of BA intensity. These also made remarkably sweet dessert wines.

Austria: Austrian wine classification is determined by the must weight of the grapes at harvest measured in the  degree KMW.

Kabinett: The minimum KMW must be 17 degrees, however, the wine can not have more that 9 grams of residual sugar and can not hold more than 13% abv (typically higher than German wines.)

Spatlese: Must be made from fully ripened grapes of at least 19 degrees KMW

Auslese: Minimum of of 21 degree KMW, all grapes that have not ripened fully or are not up to standard must be removed.

Beeraulese: Made from over ripened or grapes subject to noble tot and host a minimum of 25 degrees KMW.

Eiswein: Minimum of 25 degrees KMW, grapes must be frozen and then pressed

Strohwein: Minimum 25 degrees KMW made from fully ripened and dried grapes (straw or reed) for at least three months.

Ausbruch: Overripe, dried noble rot grapes, minimum 27 degrees KMW.

Trockenbeeraulese: Minimum 30 degrees KMW, most must be from noble rot and are considerably shriveled.

So there you have it! There is in fact a difference. At it’s very basic, all wines with the same name are NOT the same!

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One Comment on “Classification System: Austria vs Germany”

  1. November 5, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    You are missing 3 important issues. First, in Austria and Germany, wine can be chaptalized up to the Qualitatswein level. Second, Germany’s Praedikatswein can be made sweet by adding sterilized juice; this is illegal in Austria. Third, German winemakers in the Mosel area like to stop the fermentation, producing low alcohol wines with remaining sweetness; Austrian winemakers do not do that. All Austrian wines, except for the noble sweet wines are dry. See more here http://schiller-wine.blogspot.com/2010/01/german-wine-basics-sugar-in-grape.html

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