German Wine Styles

Germany’s wine styles can be difficult to understand. This is due partly to the fact that you can’t automatically tell how a German wine will taste by reading its style on the label. Unlike French wine styles, which are based on terroir, or Italian wine styles, which focus on geographical zones and specific blends of grape varieties, German wine styles are based on grape ripeness. Add in the long style names – how do you pronounce Trockenbeerenauslese, anyway? – and it’s easy to see why many wine drinkers stop trying to learn more about German wines.

view counter

German wine styles are defined by law. Each style of wine must have a minimum must weight, which is determined at the time the grapes are picked. In Germany, must weight is described in Oechsle degrees. The riper the grape, the higher the degrees Oechsle, and the higher the final alcohol content of the wine. This measurement determines the classification of each wine, as you’ll see.

So far, so good. Ripeness determines style. As you might guess, it’s a bit more complex than that. Producers in the cooler wine regions can use grapes with lower must weight for each wine style. This means that a Kabinett from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region may be made from grapes with lower must weight than those used to produce a Baden Kabinett.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.