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Wine Talk: Some German Wines for Valentines

It is time to take a little different approach to wine for Valentine’s Day. A few years ago some nice sparkling wine may have filled the bill. Some Champagne or Prosecco would do nicely for a Valentine’s Day dinner. After a few years those wines may not seem so special any more. So some German wines may be a nice change for our Valentine’s Day dinner and produce a nice surprise for our Valentines. These wines include Spatlase. This is a Late Harvest wine made from fully ripened grapes that are late picked; even those with some sweetness. A spatlese may be dry or may have a touch of sweetness but are generally not too sweet due to the acid in the grapes.

Auslese literally selected harvest are made from very ripe grapes harvested in select bunches. These grapes can only be made in the best years that have been sufficiently warm. Beerenauslese is literally berry select harvest; are rare and costly wines. Generally auslesen can only be made in the best years that have seen sufficient warm, picking individual bunches means that the wines are expensive.   Most auslesen are lush with some sweetness.

Beerenauslese is literally, berry selected harvest, beerenauslesen are rare and costly wines made from individual grapes that have been picked by hand and have been effected by noble rot. Trockenberrenauslese (TBA) means dry berry select harvest. TBA are the richest, sweetest, most rear and most expensive of all German wines. TBA is only produced in exceptional years and is made from grapes that have become raisins. This is referred to as botrytis. The grapes are gathered by hand and it takes a person a full day to pick enough grapes to ferment one bottle of wine. Due to the raisin quality of the grapes, it is quite difficult to ferment them into wine. So much so the wine is generally only 6 percent alcohol. The wine is very intense in flavor and very high in price.

The next category of German wine is Eiswein. Ice wine it is made from ripe frozen grapes. They pick the grapes at day break and the workers wear gloves so their hands don’t warm the grapes. When the wine is pressed, the sweet, high-acid, concentrated juice is separated from the ice. The grapes must be naturally frozen on the vine. Austria and Canada are also famous for making eiswein in this way. In other parts of the world as well as Connecticut they put the grapes in a freezer!

German wines, as a group, are falsely thought to be sweet. In actuality, most fine German wines are dry and at least taste that way. After the second world war enormous quantities of inexpensive German wines were intentionally made sweet. This was done to appeal to GIs who were stationed there and to the Germans themselves, who, economically destitute and suffering from poor diets, craved sweetness since sugar had been rationed during the war. Since then the nature of German wines have come to be made dryer. They use the term Trocken or Halbtroken which means dry or half dry. Germany’s greatest grape is Riesling. So for this Valentine’s Day try some Halbtorken Qualitatswein bestimmter Riesling. You and your Valentine will be glad you did!

Ray Spaziani is the Chapter Director of the New Haven Chapter of the American Wine Society. He teaches wine appreciation classes at Gateway Community College, and the Milford Board of Education as well as Moltose wine and beer making suppliers, and is a member of the International Tasting Panel of Amenti Del Vino and Wine Maker Magazine. He is an award winning home wine maker. Email Ray with your wine questions and wine events at

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