The German wine law from 1971 is quite special. It divides the quality of the wine according to the degree of the grape's sweetness at harvest.
At the bottom of the quality ladder we find the table wine (Tafelwein), which can come from anywhere. Then comes the country wine (Landwine) which is supposed to correspond to the French "Vin de Pays".
Qualitätswein Bestimmter Anbaugebeide (QbA) is a wine from one of Germany's 13 wine region. In this category you will find wines like Liebfraumilch and Reiler von Heissen Stein.
At the top of the quuality ranking is Qualitätswein mit Prädikat. These are the finest wines in Germany, and the group is divided into 6 different "Predicates"
|Auslese||Selected overripe grapes|
|Beerenauslese||Selected grapes attacked by Noble rot *|
|Trockenbeerenauslese||Selected hard attacked Noble rot grapes|
|Eiswein||Grapes harvested in a frozen state|
* Noble rot is a fungus (Botrytis Cinerea) affecting wine grapes.
Grapes are typically infected when they are overripe, and if then exposed to drier conditions they can become partially raisined.
Grapes picked at this point can produce concentrated sweet wine called "Botrytized Wines".
Germany defines these quality Riesling wines (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat):
Riesling Kabinett is the lightest Riesling style.
Kabinett wines range from dry (Trocken 4-9 g/l sugar) to off-dry (Halb trocken 12-18 g/l sugar).
Spätlese means "Late Selected".
Riesling Spätlese wines are richer than Kabinett wines because the grapes contain more sugar at late harvest. Spätlese wines can be off-dry (Halb trocken 12-18 g/l sugar) or dry (Trocken 4-9 g/l sugar).
Auslese means "Selected".
Auslese wines are sweeter than Spätlese wines (50 g/l sugar). These wines are produced from hand-picked very ripe grapes that have more sugar than Spätlese.
Beerenauslese means "Berry (Grape) Selected".
Beerenauslese wines are dessert wines. (100 g/l sugar) Theese wines are basically produced from hand picked grapes that have been infected by the Botrytis bacteria (Noble Rot) that dries out the grapes and concentrates the sugar.
Trockenbeerenauslese means "Dry Berry (Grape) Selected".
Trockenbeerenauslese wines are produced from individual selected Beerenauslese grapes. Trockenbeerenausleses are some of the greatest sweet wines in the world (200 g/l sugar).
Eiswein means "Ice wine".
Eiswein is a sweet dessert wine made from grapes that have been picked when frozen and pressed when frozen. True Eiswein must be picked in the middle of the night, after two days of frost.