Deciphering German wine labels


Many people who are just getting into wine find that a bit of sweetness makes wine both more pleasurable, as well as easier to drink. Finding sweet wines, and being able to determine the sweetness level from the label can be a challenge. One of the best places to start can be with German wines, whose detailed labels offer you all the information you need. On the other hand all that information can also be very intimidating. It’s time to make it a bit easier.

German wine labels include the producer, the vintage, the region the wine is from, the village and if it’s from a specific vineyard that gets mentioned as well. Also included is the level of ripeness of the grapes at harvest. This does not necessarily indicate the sweetness of the finished wines but can certainly help you narrow down your search.
An easy rundown of the wine label details
Related Imagery
An illustrative German Wine Label

Cut through the clutter and confusion

   1. As a QmP wine, this label represents the highest potential level of winemaking for German wines. Each wine that receives QmP certification has been approved by a regional tasting panel and represents a wine consistent with the claims made on the label. The accompanying set of numbers, referred to as the AP number, serves as a serial number of sorts. Each group of numbers represents a specific bit of information and more than one AP# can be associated with a specific wine. In order the numbers stand for:

      First set of digits – The village in which the wine was tasted

      The second set represents the village where the wine was produced

      The third set represents the producer

      The fourth set represents the order in which the producer’s wines were submitted for approval by the tasting panel

      The final set represents the year in which the samples were submitted for tasting.

   2. The vintage
   3. The region the wine comes from
   4. The grape variety
   5. The village where the vineyard is located
   6. The vineyard the grapes came from
   7. The ripeness level of the grapes at harvest
   8. This wine is further labeled as Feinherb, a further indication of the sweetness of the finished wine
   9. The volume of the bottle
  10. The alcohol level of the finished wine
  11. The producer

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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    The Dragonstone Reisling is a fantastic wine - one of the best for under $20

    Sep 10, 2009 at 1:53 PM

  • If you need more info, go to This is the wine blog of a German in the US.

    Sep 11, 2009 at 12:51 AM

  • Snooth User: cliberg
    218104 4

    In my experience correlating increasing ripeness of grapes with increasing sweetness is not necessarily valid. It is of course valid *before* fermentation commences. Residual sweetness is largely a function of the completeness of fermentation; a Spätlese can be dry as a bone, albeit with more extract and fruit than say a Kabinett.

    Weingut Leitz Rüdesheimer Riesling Spätlese trocken is awesome, rich and fleshy but very dry too.

    Sep 11, 2009 at 2:50 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Very nice blog Christian!

    That is a fact cliberg. The terms denoting relative dryness, Trocken, Halbtrocken and Feinherb are mentioned as well as the fact that the use of Kabinett, Spatlese, etc on the label refers to a minimum level of ripeness at harvest. I certainly have had Kabinetts that were declassified Auslesen!

    Sep 11, 2009 at 8:11 AM

  • Snooth User: Sweetstuff
    Hand of Snooth
    139592 254

    It might have been good for you to use as an example label with the new nomenclature on it: Quätlitatswein mit Prädikat is now Prädikatswein (and Quälitatswein bestimmtes Anbaugebiete [Q.b.A.] is simply Quälitatswein).

    Eventually you'll of course want to mention the difference between an Einzellage and a Grosslage.

    Best, John Trombley

    Sep 11, 2009 at 3:00 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Hi John,

    This was the clearest label I could find. I did skip over the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, conveniently ignoring that fact!

    And of course the the difference between an Einzellage and a Grosslage is not for Wine 101, maybe Wine 201! Any interest in writing something for Snooth? You are far more qualified than i!

    Sep 13, 2009 at 9:50 AM

  • Snooth User: Ljubisa
    262860 2

    # Kabinett - lightly sweet
    # Spatlese - noticeably sweet
    # Auslese - decidedly sweet
    This part can be really confusing for beginners since it has nothing to do with real classification and even not with translation. What is to be taken care of is that the "normal" sugar ranges based classification i.e. 0-4 gram/litre dry, 4-8 semi-dry, 8-50 semi- sweet and above 50 sweet, is not used in Germany. There are only three categories and the ranges are correspondingly wider, what can be surprise for the people used to the a.m. classification.

    Oct 24, 2009 at 8:12 AM

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