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Sprechen Sie Wein?

April 22, 1993|DAN BERGER

German wine terms are daunting to those who don't speak the language, especially since some words are very long. Here is a brief glossary aimed at making labels a bit easier to understand:

Trocken: Dry, typically less than 0.9% residual sugar.

Halbtrocken: Literally half dry, designating a wine with a trace of residual sugar (0.9% up to 1.8%), but usually a wine that is nearly dry on the tongue.

Einzellage: A single vineyard site.

Erzeugerabfullung: Estate bottled, but generally not a mark of quality the way it is in other countries.

A.P. Nr.: An abbreviation for Amtliche Prufungsnummer, which is the certification that the wine has been tested by a government panel by taste analysis and found to be sound. The A.P. number is then granted and always takes the form of a letter followed by a series of numbers ending in the last two digits of the year in which the wine was certified. The A.P numbers from all wines analyzed this year will end in 93.

Sekt: A sparkling wine from Germany, usually made from Riesling. The best can age many years.

Qualitatswein eines bestimmten Anbaugebietes (QbA): A quality wine from a specified region, such as a wine from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (which comes in a green bottle) or a wine from the Rheingau (brown bottle). Almost all German wine today qualifies for the QbA designation, compared with about 40% in France that qualify for the comparable AOC designation.

Qualitatswein mit Pradikat: A quality wine with special attributes. Such wines are ranked in sub-classes (such as Spatlese, Auslese etc.), which are generally an indication of how sweet they taste--but not always. QmP wines are ranked by potential alcohol, not sweetness, so there are some Spatlesen that are totally or nearly dry and are called, respectively, Spatlese Trocken or Spatlese Halbtrocken.

The six classes of QmP wines are:

Kabinett: The lightest designation of Pradikat wines, generally without much residual sugar, and generally a more modest wine that should be consumed young, though a great Kabinett could last 10 to 15 years.

Spatlese: Literally, late-harvested. These are wines that are usually noticeably sweet, with sugar levels not specified.

Auslese: Wine made from carefully selected grapes, not necessarily late-picked. These are wines whose grapes, if fermented dry, would generate 13% alcohol. These wines are usually legitimate candidates to serve with a fruit-based dessert, for they often carry higher residual sugars. Auslesen from a great vintage are often better values than higher designations.

The aforementioned four categories of wine (QbA, Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese) all may be fermented in three styles-- trocken, halbtrocken and the so-called "fruity" style, with noticeable sweetness.

Beerenauslese: A wine made from selected, late-picked grapes and always very sweet and with noticeable honeyed aroma notes from the grapes having been infected with the noble rot Botrytis cinerea (called Edelfaule in German).

Trockenbeerenauslese: Literally dried berry. Carefully selected, late-harvest fruit. These wines always are very sweet, but are usually balanced by high acidity. They are generally low in alcohol (7% or 8% is not uncommon), and are always nearly completely infected with Edelfaule. Very expensive, long-lived wines.

Eiswein: Ice wine. A wine made from grapes that were harvested and crushed while they were frozen on the vine. The sweetness of the grapes at harvest has to be at least capable of making a Beerenauslese-level wine. Can be very expensive.

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