Before embarking on a tour of Germany's significant wine regions, I first provide this guide to German wine terminology. This is not really meant for browsing, rather it is a quick reference guide should you find an unusual or novel expression, and with an apparent German predilection for defining, categorising and legalising, there are plenty of those.
Abfüllung: Means 'bottled by', and may be followed on the label by information regarding the bottler. Related terms include erzeugerabfüllung and gutsabfüllung.
Amtliche Prüfnummer: The Amtliche Prüfnummer (or AP number) is a unique code assigned to each individual bottling of quality wine produced by every winemaker in Germany. For more detail see my explanation of the AP number.
Anbaugebiet: The collective term for the thirteen German growing regions, namely the Mosel (incorporating the Saar and Ruwer), the Rheingau, Rheinhessen, the Nahe, the Pfalz, Mittelrhein, Ahr, Baden, Franken, Hessische Bergstrasse, Württemberg, Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen.
Auslese: A Prädikat category for sweet wines. The Auslese designation is conferred if the must weight, measured prior to the wine being made and bottled, reaches a certain level. The grapes are likely therefore to have been harvested late, and may include a significant proportion of nobly rotten grapes. The legally required value differs from region to region and also between countries. Mosel Auslese, for example, begins at 83 Oechsle.
Beerenauslese: A Prädikat category for sweet wines, traditionally made from individually harvested nobly rotten grapes. See also Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein, other very sweet Prädikat categories.
Bereich: Large regions which straddle many different Grosslage, and may be used as a generic labelling term for blended wines from that region. The Mosel, for example, has six Bereiche. There is at least a degree of transparency with this term, as Bereiche must be declared on the label, a very different situation to that with the Grosslagen, but in many cases the wines are not worth seeking out anyway.
Einzellage: This term refers to single vineyard sites, although when applied to the post-1971 Wine Law vineyards it is describing sites that may comprise a dozen or more amalgamated pre-1971 vineyards. Wines from these sites represent the pinnacle of German quality wine.
Eiswein: An expensive, labour intensive sweet wine made from frozen grapes. The grapes are harvested during the cold of winter, facilitating the removal of much of the water as ice, intensifying the remaining sugar and flavour. The must weight is generally well over 100 Oechsle. See my eiswein feature for more information.
Erzeugerabfüllung: Means bottled by the producer, which may be a small estate or a huge co-operative. For contrast, see gutsabfüllung.
Feinherb: An off-dry style, with 18 to 45 g/l of residual sugar.
Goldkapsel: Bottles topped with a gold capsule, found particularly in the Mosel, usually contain a wine deemed superior by the producer to his or her regular bottling. These are typically Auslese wines and will usually display more richness, intensity and flavour that the regular bottling. They are also usually more expensive, and have great potential for ageing.
Grosslage: Legally defined regions covering a number of different villages and many different vineyards within a single wine region. The way these regional, generic wines are labelled is one of the great travesties of the 1971 Wine Law. For more information see my instalment on the German Wine Laws.
Gutsabfüllung: Means estate-bottled, as opposed to producer-bottled (erzeugerabfüllung). The winemaker must satisfy certain criteria in order to be able to use the term.
Gutswein: A low level of the 2002 VDP classification, translating as 'estate wine'.
Halbtrocken: Translating literally as 'half-dry', this term is used for medium dry wines, containing from 9 to 18 g/l of residual sugar.
Kabinett: The lowest category of wines in the Prädikat. The minimum required must weight varies from region to region. In the Mosel, for example, the minimum must weight is 67 Oechsle. The wines, unless from a rich vintage, tend to be off dry and low in alcohol, although all that can change if they are Halbtrocken or Trocken.
Landwein: The equivalent of French vin de pays, although whereas there are many enjoyable bottles of vin de pays, this is less likely to be true of landwein.
Lange Goldkapsel: One step up from the already high quality goldkapsel (gold capsule) bottlings, these wines have a longer capsule and denote even greater quality (as well as, yet again, higher price).
Oechsle: A scale of must weight based on specific gravity. It is vital to assess the must weight in Germany as it determines the Prädikat classification. An Oechsle unit is equal to one unit of specific gravity above 1000. For example, the must of a Mosel with specific gravity of 1090 has an Oechsle of 90 and therefore qualifies as an Auslese. My feature on must weight in my exploration of sweet wines gives more information.
Ortswein: A low level of the 2002 VDP classification, translating as 'commune wine'.
Prädikat: A classification depending on the must weight, explained in more detail in this instalment of my German wine guide.
QbA: The labelling term QbA (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete) literally describes a 'quality wine from a designated region'. It is a lower quality category than QmP, permitting the addition of süssreserve. Wines classified as QbA are occasionally of interest, but frequently are not.
QmP: The term QmP is an abbreviation for Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, which literally interprets as 'quality wine with predication'. The predication or Prädikat contains a number of categories which depend on must weight. The QmP classification includes the vast majority of German wines of any interest.
Spätlese: A Prädikat classification, lying between Kabinett and Auslese.
Süssreserve: Unfermented grape juice (although it may occasionally contain a small amount of alcohol if some fermentation has occurred) which may be added to wines of QbA or Qmp classification (QmP wines may not be Chaptalised, though) in order to increase the sugar content. The origin of the süssreserve must be the same as that for the wine which it is bolstering. Many winemakers aiming to produce the best quality would view the liberal use of süssreserve with suspicion, and certainly would not Chaptalise.
Tafelwein: A low quality classification for German wine, essentially 'table wine'.
Trocken: An increasingly important German style, these are wines fermented until dry, with less than 9 g/l of residual sugar in the final wine provided there is at least 2 g/l of acidity; otherwise the maximum residual sugar is 4 g/l.
Trockenbeerenauslese: A sweet Prädikat category which translates literally as 'dry berry selected'. Essentially it refers to wines made using selected grapes affected by noble rot.
VDP: The Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter (VDP), an association of the leading wine estates.
Weingut: Describes an estate which owns vineyards as a source of fruit for its wine.
Weinkellerei: Describes an estate which buys in grapes to make wine, rather than owning its own vineyards.