Riesling is one of those German vintages that connoisseurs rank very highly but never seem to get the attention it deserves among wine drinkers. The German Riesling, Auslese, is a perplexing choice to be particular. Why perplexing? Well, to begin with, this wine is one of the best you can buy from your local store, but there is not enough information on it. What food can you eat it with? Is it a dessert wine? These and many more questions will be answered as we delve into the rich history of the wine.
Down Memory Lane
To begin with, finding your way through the German wine varieties requires knowledge of the wine lingo from the country. It can be tough to master all the terms used for these wines, but once you have everything figured out, then you can enjoy some of the best vintages in the world. Additionally, these can be found at prices that are much lower than the typical bottle of wine with such quality.
Not too familiar with wines yet? Check out “Best Wine for Beginners” for more tips on choosing the right wine.
The literal meaning of the word Auslese (OWS-lay-zuh) is ‘selected harvest.’ The term is used to describe a late harvest wine. The wine category signifies a grape harvest that is riper than Prädikatswein or Spätlese, which are the two other wine categories used for German and Austrian wines. Grapes used to make Auslese Riesling are selected from the overripe bunches of grapes found in late the late autumn months, between early November and late December. These are strictly handpicked. This then means that Auslese can only be made in years when the harvest has been warm enough. Have a look at our article, “Best Grapes for Making Wine” to see which grapes are used to make wine.
Schloss Johannisberg is credited as being the first winemaker to come up with Auslese wine. The winemaker from Rheingau discovered the wine in the year 1787. The Riesling grapes used to make the wine are mostly grown in the Rhine region. These have a rich history of winemaking in the region dating back to the mid-1400s.
What Defines Auslese?
There are a lot of varieties when it comes to German Riesling, and for good reason, as this is one of the most appreciated wine brands from the country. So, what makes a German Riesling specifically Auslese and not, say, Spätlese or Kabinett? These terms are used to refer to the level of ripeness of the grapes. Kabinett grapes are the first to be picked and are harvested as soon as they are ready. Spätlese grapes, on the other hand, are picked late. Being specially picked, grapes used to make Auslese give off more intensity and richness than any of the other two.
The required must-weight for Auslese wine is 83-100 degrees, Oechsle. The must-weight varies with grape variety and wine-growing region. According to German wine laws, chaptalization is not to be used when making the wine. Though this is how the wine should be made by law, many of the winemakers in the region often exceed the minimum prerequisites by a broad margin. The result is a wine that is much sweeter and richer. This is often indicated by the addition of up to three stars on the wine label. It is also indicated by a golden capsule on some bottles.
Be sure to also check out “How Many Grapes are Used for One Bottle of Wine?” to see what goes into your bottle of wine.
Red and Dry Auslese
The level of ripeness of Auslese has become the gold standard for making Pinot Noir from Germany (known in the country as Spätburgunder). This is the standard applied for winemakers in the regions of Rheingau, Baden, and Pfalz. It is one of the techniques that have been prominent in the renaissance of German red wine as producers seek to establish a name for it. Producers are working with grapes with the ripeness of Auslese grapes and inculcating Burgundian methods of production.
The dry variety of the wine is made mostly in the region of Pfalz. Typically, these have a high alcohol content (13-14%). The younger version of this wine often has an unbalanced flavor profile. The Riesling grape can age for very long periods of time and may take up to 10 years or even longer to age properly. Need to know more about dry wines, check out “What is dry wine?” here.
Flavor and Food Pairings
Riesling is one of those wines known for strong aromas for both dry and sweet varieties, and Auslese is no different. The taste begins with clearly noticeable aromas that can be felt even when the wine is chilled to ice-cold temperatures. The primary aromas are fruity and smell of fruits such as pear, nectarine, honey-crisp apple, and apricot. Aside from the fruity smells, the wine also includes aromas like jasmine, honeycomb or lime peel. Some of the aging flavors include lanolin, petrol, and diesel, which come from a natural compound known as TDN. Auslese Riesling has a high acidity that is akin to that of lemonade.
Most people who know about the wine tend to shun the sweet variety for, well, being too sweet. Wine experts think otherwise. Check out “The Most Popular Sweet Wines” to see the difference between sweet and dry wines. The wine is officially said to have a balanced sweetness. Auslese Riesling may have a lot of residual sugar on occasion but this does not necessarily mean that the wine is sweet. You also have to consider the high acidity levels which do well to balance off the sugariness. Auslese Riesling is one among a very exclusive list of wines that are able to achieve this balance without muddling the taste. One other example that exhibits this kind of balance is Viognier.
What Food to Have With Auslese?
Auslese Riesling, like other types of wine in the same class, has the acidity and sweetness that makes it perfect for spicy food— think Thai curry or the spicy vindaloo of India. For something closer to home, you might want to prepare spiced duck. When it comes to meat pairings, the wine goes well with crab, shrimp, bacon, pork, and chicken. Feel free to source all the recipes for spicy food that you can find. The wine would pair well with dishes that include spices such as cinnamon, ginger, clove, madras curry, shallots, turmeric, sesame, soy sauce, basil, Teriyaki, Sichuan pepper, allspice and basically anything else you can find in the grocery store for your meats and sauces.
Thinking of having steak for dinner tonight with your wine? Check out “What Wine Should I Drink With Steak” for pairing tips.
German wines are known for their unpredictability, and Auslese is no exception. You never really know what to expect when you pop the bottle. There are those who choose to look at it as a pleasant surprise and those who prefer consistency. Either way, we all like German wine, albeit for the low price more than anything else.
You too should grab your own bottle even if it’s only to expand your palate and knowledge of wine. Let us know in the comments below your preferred bottle of wine.
Thank you for reading! Be sure to also check out other helpful articles like “What Happens if You Drink Bad Wine“, “What Wine Should I Drink With Cheese“, or “How Long is Wine Good for After You Open It?”
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