The first predicate is Kabinett,
meaning the lightest wine. The name, Kabinett,originates from the small private wine cellars of the famous estates. However, „their owners’ eyes were bigger than their stomachs“ and they finally had to start selling the contents of their overflowing Cabinet Cellars. Today, the name signifies the first level of the „quality wine with predicate“. These wines are harvested earliest of all Prädikat wines and are usually lowest in alcohol content and drier than Spatlesen and Auslesen .
The second category is the Spätlese,
i.e.: late harvest which is a little bit higher in natural sweetness (specific weight) than the Kabinett wine. For these wines late-picked grapes are harvested no fewer than seven days after the main harvest. The wines are generally higher in alcohol and residual sugar content than Kabinett wines.
The next highest predicate is Auslese,
i.e. select harvest, a method of picking whereby only the very ripe bunches of grapes are selected. Wine is made from these selected but not necessarily late-harvested grapes. Riesling Auslesen can be made only in good years from such grapes infected by noble rot (botrytis), a beneficial mould that causes concentration of the flavours in the grapes. Minimum must weights are higher than for Spatlesen and the wines seem sweeter due to the increased residual sugar and higher glycerine levels.
The next again is higher, the Beerenauslese,
where only the ripe berries were used to make this wine. Wines made from individually selected, over-ripe grapes that are usually infected by noble rot (botrytis). German wine law requires a minimum alcohol level of only 5,5%. Residual sugar levels are extraordinarily high but blanced by high acid levels. The modern tendency is toward higher alcohol wines with lower residual sugar levels.
The next is Trockenbeerenauslese
which means: only the dried out berries were used to make the most noble wine in Germany. Wines made from grapes that are 1. individually selected, 2. over-ripe, 3. botrytis-infected, and 4. shriveled. These are Beerenauslese taken a step further. Trocken means „dry“, indicating that the grapes are left on the vine until all the water evaporates and they are dried via a lovely little mold called botrytis. These are made in fine vintages only. Both Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese have a dense honeyed quality as a result of the botrytis influence.
The last category is Eiswein.
Icewine is harvested at least 8 degrees celsius below zero and must have at least the specific weight of Beerenauslese. Wines made from grapes naturally frozen at the time of pressing. Water is separated from the sugar and acid of the grapes and left in the press in the form of ice crystals. Ripeness of grapes, measured in must weight, must meet Beerenauslese levels. Eisweins do not have the dence, honeyed quality of Beerenauslesen and Trockenbeerenauslese. In general, they’re clean, fresh and nervy.
Germany does produce dry wines. While Pradikat levels can be a general indication of a wine’s sweetness, it is important to remember that the Pradikat quality distinctions are based on the ripeness of grapes at the time of harvest, not on the amount of residual sugar in the wine at the time of bottling. Sweetness is a matter of discretion. Ripeness is a matter of law. If a wine is dry, the label will read „trocken“ regardless of the quality level of the wine. For example, there are Tafelwein, Qualitatswein, QbA, Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese wines that are dry or trocken.
Half-dry. The same concepts as above apply. These wines are virtually dry, falling between trocken and traditional Kabinett style wines with regard to sweetness.