The German monthly magazine Capital published in its July issue – for the 17th time - its prestigious list of the best German white wines – of the last vintage.
There are 21 different categories, with the grape variety (Riesling, Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc), style (dry, sweet and noble sweet) and ripeness of grapes at harvest (QbA, Kabinett, Spaetlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese) the determining factors. The judges – mainly sommeliers from top restaurants - awarded 3 prizes (First, Second, Third Place) in each of the 21 categories. Thus, the list includes 69 wines.
16 of the categories are dry wines, 3 are sweet Kabinett, Spaetlese and Auslese wines and 2 are noble sweet wines. The list reflects very well the state of German white wine production. On the one hand, there are the famous sugar sweet Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein wines, made from botrytized or frozen grapes. The grapes that go into these wines have at the time of harvest such a high sugar content that there is nothing you can do to make dry wines out of these grapes. They inevitably produce lusciously sweet wines. But apart from these exceptions, grapes harvested in Germany, a country at the northern frontier of winemaking, have normal sugar content at the time of harvest and tend to produce dry wines, when fully fermented. 16 of the 21 categories are thus dry wines.
However, modern cellar methods allow winemakers to produce wines with a bit of residual sugar with these grapes. There are principally two ways for making wine sweet that do not have enough sugar. First, you do not let the fermentation run its course and stop it. As a result, you get delicious sweet and low level alcohol wines. Second, you let the wine fully ferment to a normal alcohol level and then add Suessreserve which is sterilized juice to achieve the desired level of sweetness. These fruity sweet wines have lost popularity in Germany, although there appears to be a comeback, but in any case remain very popular outside of Germany, for example in the US. 3 of the 21 categories (or, 14%) are these sweet Kabinett, Spaetlese and Auslese wines.
10 of the 21 categories are Rieslings. Of course, Riesling is the king of German wine. But there are other grapes, which are popular in Germany. These other white grape varieties are largely absent from the export markets.
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