The Germanicsystem defines its wine by sugar levels, ripeness, production and varieties.
Oechsle,which classifies the levels below, measures grape RIPENESS.
It's indicated by concentration of dissolved compounds in juice or must
since 90% of the dissolved solids in grape juice are sugars (plus acids, ions, and a host of other solutes) any measurement of these solids gives a indication of the grapes' ripeness, and therefore potential alcohol
**very important! 2 words: Trocken and Feinherb. Any wine can be dry if it is fermented all the way through to dryness. Therefore, a Spatlese Trocken is a dry, ripe, complex wine.
HERE IS A QUICK GUIDE TO RIESLING RIPENESS AND PROFILES:
-kabinett: light, slim body, low alcohol.
-spatlese: ripe, more complex.
-auslese: very ripe fruit.
-beerenauslese: very ripe fruit, with botrytis. (sweet)
-eiswein: very ripe fruit, no botrytis, from naturally frozen grapes, minus 7 C. (sweet)
-tba (trockenbeerenauslese): dried fruit, botrytis, sweet, honey. (sweet)
*0.13% of production in Germany is ba and tba.
*tba is the rarest of the german wines, not eiswein
Why is German wine complicated? Compare to Burgundy:
Côte d'Or: 5,500 hectares, 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay
Germany: 102,000 hectares, 11 white & 17 red major grape varieties in 13 regions in 2 climate zones
VDPCLASSIFICATION MODEL OF 2012:
(with French counterparts and label examples)
1. VDP GROSSE LAGE
like Grand Cru
wines from Germany's best vineyard sites
dry wines are designated GROSSES GEWACHS
ex: Kiedrick Grafenberg GG Trocken
2. VDP ERSTE LAGE
like Premier Cru
ex: Kieddrich Turmberg Trocken
3. VDP ORTSWEIN
ex: Kiedricher Trocken
4. VDP GUTSWEIN
like Bourgogne AOC
ex: Rheingau Trocken
*GG is private predicate--the wineries decide what their best vineyards are.
Kabinett, Spatlese, etc. are predicates by law--Oechsle levels have requirements.
- Emily Garrison, Shiraz Fine Wine & Gourmet