Wanting to wine and dine like the Germans? Here's how to decipher those pesky foreign labels.
Q. What’s with all those endlessly long words on German wine labels?
A. Qualitätswein Bestimmter Anbaugebiete, anyone? Yikes! If the behemoth words sometimes found on German wine labels have made you scurry back to the California wine aisle for safety, maybe it’s time for a quick overview. Basically, there are just two levels of quality German wine to concern yourself with—Qualitätswein Bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) and Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP).
Simply put, the QbA wines are usually fairly inexpensive, uncomplicated and ideal for everyday, while the high- falutin’ QmP wines are produced to more stringent winemaking standards. The latter will almost always display one of six other designations on the label: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein or Trockenbeerenauslese—words that describe the sweetness of the grapes when harvested.
—Charles Smothermon, a food and wine writer in Laurin, Mont.