Prädikatswein – Classification According to Must Weight
Which of the abovementioned categories a high quality wine falls under depends upon its must weight, which can differ between grape varieties and winegrowing regions. As a rule of thumb, a Kabinett must have a minimum of 73 °Oechsle, for Spätlese 85 degrees, for Auslese 95 degrees, for Beerenauslese 125 degrees, and for Trockenbeerenauslese 150 °Oechsle. Ice wines are made from over-ripe grapes which have frozen on the vine and must be kept frozen at a maximum temperature of -8° C until they are pressed. A Kabinett wine is generally a light fine wine with a relatively low alcohol content. The remaining categories are assigned to increasingly sweet to noble sweet wines.
Criteria for Prädikatswein
German Wine Law stipulates that a Prädikatswein must be made of grapes that originate from a single region. In practice, the grapes often even originate from a single location. Furthermore, the grape varieties used must be approved for the production of Prädikatswein and originate from wineries that have also been approved for Prädikatswein production. The only exception is allowed for grapes used for the production of Süßweinreserve (Sweet Reserve Wine). Chaptalisation – i.e. adding sugar either during or after fermentation – is prohibited. Augmentation of residual sugar content may only be achieved by adding grape must of equal or superior quality. Single region cuvées are permissible if the blending wines both come from the same region and both exhibit the minimum alcohol content prescribed for their respective wine quality status. Prädikatswein may not be bottled before March 1st of the year following the harvest. The wines must pass an official quality control test before they are granted Qualitätswein status. The wine is issued an official certification number (= AP-Nr.), which must be stated on the label.
The hierarchy of German Prädikatswein (from lowest to highest) is as follows: Kabinettweinen (Cabinet Wine), Spätlesen (late harvest wine), Auslesen (wine made from hand-picked grapes), Beerenauslesen (wine made from selected, hand-picked grapes) and the superior quality Trockenbeerenauslesen (wine made from selected, hand-picked grapes that have dried on the vine). Each of these categories are also classed according to their must weight. Eisweine (ice wines) are also classed as Prädikatsweinen.