Sprechen Zie German Wine Label?

Learn How To Read A German Wine Label

Oh boy. There is a reason I left how to read a German wine label as the last part of this How To Read Old World Wine Labels series. Unlike French wine labels and Italian wine labels, the German wine label has everything on it from producer to what color underwear the winemaker was wearing at the time of bottling. Where info stops on the front label, it picks up on the back and you almost need two bottles to fit it all. Not that I have a problem with needing two bottles, but let’s see, there’s producer, region, village, vineyard, grape variety, level of ripeness, level of sweetness and as if it matters at that point, vintage. P.S. it does matter.

By the way, if you missed the start of this series or any of the other Old World wine label posts you can find them here:

How to read Old World wine labels

How to read a French wine label

How to read an Italian wine label

Do you like pyramids? Because I have another one for you. This one is called the German Wine Quality Pyramid. It looks like this:

Learn about the German Wine Quality Pyramid.

German wines fall into the same categories as the other Old World wines of France and Italy, Table wine and Quality wine. They also fit into four subcategories within those two main categories:

    Table wine
  • Tafelwein (table wine – pronounced toff-el-bine)
  • Landwein (country wine – pronounced landt-vine)
    Quality Wines produced in specified regions
  • Qualitätswein bestimmte Anbaugebiete, or QbA (Quality wine of a specified appellation –
    pronounced kval-eet-Ets-vine buh SHTim-tey ahn-Bal-guh-beet-uh)
  • Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, or QmP (Quality wine with attributes –
    pronounced kval-eet-Ets-vine mitt prey-dee-Kaht)

Tafelwein or Deutscher Tafelwein (German Table Wine)

Tafelwein is your basic table wine of Germany, sometimes referred to as Deutscher Tafelwein; very little is exported outside the country. The grapes come from anywhere in germany are a mix of normally ripened grapes and some that are slightly underripe. There are few restrictions governing production of tafelwein and they are not officially tested for quality. Nor do they have an AP-Number or Amtliche Prüfungsnummer, which is an official certification number found on the labels of all QbA and QmP wines stating the wine meets official guidelines of production.


Landwein is a step up from tafelwein with at least a half percent more alcohol. The only restriction placed on it is that it must come from one of nineteen specific wine districts.

Learn about wine German Landwein.

Qualitätswein bestimmte Anbaugebiete, or QbA

The QbA category refers to quality wine from a specified area of production or specified appellation, one of thirteen to be exact. The wines follow regional appellation guidelines and are tested for compliance to those guidelines. The wine receives an AP-Number once they meet the requirements of the region, such as the wine being from one specific region, is made of specified grape varieties, has reached appropriate sweetness levels, etc.

These wines are also Chaptalized, meaning sugar is added to before fermentation to ensure a proper alcohol level after fermentation. Normal sugar levels are measured at harvest to determine the grapes must weight, which is the density of the grape juice. The term of measurement is in degrees of oechsle (pronounced Ecks-ley). For example, a wine designated to become a Kabinett must reach an oechsle of 70°

Learn about wine German QbA wines.

Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, or QmP

QmP or Quality Wine with Attributes is the highest certification for German wines. As with AOC of French wines and DOCG of Italian wines. QmP wines go through the same rigorous analysis as QbA wines and receive an AP-Number as well, but the Prädikat or “Special Attributes” designation goes further to include graduating ripeness levels. These levels are pictured in the German Wine Quality Pyramid above: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, and Trockenbeerenauslese. These wines may not be chaptalized.

Learn how to read a German QmP label.

Kabinett (pronounced kahb-een-Et)
A light wine made from fully ripe grapes and generally less sweet than other QmP wines. Can be dry, off-dry or sweet.

Spätlese (pronounced SHPAYT-lay-zuh)

Spätlese means “late harvest”. The grapes used for this wine have a longer hang time than grapes of the first harvest. This makes them sweeter with more body than Kabinetts. Can be dry, off-dry or sweet.

Auslese (pronounced Ows-ley-zuh)

Auslese wines, meaning select picking wines are made from very ripe grapes and resemble dessert wines in sweetness, though they can be dry, off-dry or sweet.

Ripeness levels, however, do not pertain to sweetness levels with QmP wines. Wines from Tafelwein up to Auslese may be dry, off-dry or sweet depending on the winemaker’s intention.

Beerenauslese or BA (pronounced Bear-un-Ows-ley-zuh)

Handpicked, overripe grapes that may have been affected by botrytis, or noble rot, a mold that dehydrates grapes as they hang on the vine. Noble rot can produced some amazing dessert wines. Beerenauslese wines are sweet dessert wines, rich and complex. These wines will never be dry or off-dry.

Trockenbeerenauslese or TBA (pronounced Trah-ken-bear-en-Ows-ley-zuh

TBAs are completely done in by botrytis and look like raisins at harvest. They make superb dessert wines, are even heavier, sweeter and more complex than BAs.

Eiswein (pronounced ICE-vine)

Eisweins have at least a Beerenauslese sweetness. They are made from grapes that have frozen on the vine and are harvested and pressed while frozen. They are thick, honey-like and super sweet.

Levels Of Dryness

  • Trocken – very dry to dry
  • Haltrocken – off-dry or semi-dry
  • Classic – another term for dry, Classic will be printed beside the grape variety, like Classic Riesling.
  • Selection – another term for dry, the grapes must come from a single vineyard and be handpicked.
  • Erstes Gewächs, Erste Lage & Grosses Gewächs – indicates dry wines from the finest vineyards. Minimum must weight equivalent to at least Spätlese.

Other terms you might find on a German wine label

  • Erzeugerabfüllung – means Estate Bottled and assures that the wine was grown, produced and bottled by a delineated set of vineyards within a single village.
  • Gutsabfüllung – Is synonymous with Erzeugerabfüllung and assures that the wine was grown, produced and bottled by a single vineyard.
  • Keller – cellar
  • Winzer – grape grower
  • Rotwein: red wine

That concludes my series on How to read an Old World wine label. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed explaining it to you. It is a lot of information to take in, but now you can take your new wine knowledge and help a friend learn how to read a German wine label or any other wine label from the Old World.

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Related Articles:

  1. How To Read A Wine Label: The Old World
  2. How To Read A Wine Label: New World Style
  3. Sacrebleu, A French Wine Label!
  4. Per l’Amore di Italian Wine Labels

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