A little information about Riesling
The words Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese describe government-defined levels of ripeness of the grapes at the time of harvest. Those words may also reflect a progression in quality and price. Kabinett, the most common type you’ll find in the U.S., is the earliest picked, light, and is, unless designated otherwise, semi-sweet. Spätlese is late-harvested and Auslese, which is only made in the best years, is hand-picked, late harvested and riper than Spätlese. Trocken means dry and halbtrocken means half-dry. On our first trip to Germany, we sought out Spätlese Trocken wines -- that is, wines from very ripe grapes that are fermented to dryness.
Continuing the ripeness and price progression, at nose-bleed prices there’s this trio of dessert wines: Beerenauslese, made only in the best years from hand-picked grapes affected by noble rot or botrytis, which intensifies the sweetness; Trockenbeerenauslese, a cut above Beerenauslese, these are made essentially from raisins, dried (Trocken) grapes in the best years. Then there’s even rarer Eiswein, super ripe grapes that are picked frozen and pressed while frozen. Bliss.
Read Dorothy J. Gaiter's column on importer Terry Theise. And the extended interview as Terry Theise talks rock and roll and Riesling.