"Tafelweine" (German "table wines") are at the lower end of the quality spectrum. One of the criteria which German "Tafelweine" must fulfil is that it should be made exclusively from grapes derived from approved vineyards and grape varieties. Wine blending is permitted. The must (pressed grape juice) may be fortified with sugar or concentrated must before fermentation. The finished wine must have a total alcohol content of between 8.5 vol. and 15% vol.
"Landwein" (German "country wine") is of a somewhat higher quality. At this level, blending is no longer allowed and only sugar may be used for fortification.
The place where the grapes were originally harvested must be shown on the labels used for "Landwein", which is always dry or off-dry. The natural alcohol content of a "Landwein" should be at least 0.5% vol. higher than that of a comparable "Tafelwein".
The "Qualitätsweine bestimmter Anbaugebiete" ("QbA" - high-quality wines from specific regions), which include most German wines, must come from one of the recognised German winegrowing regions. The minimum natural alcohol content of these wines depends on the grape variety used and where it is grown. Fortification with sugar is allowed, as long as this produces no more than 20 to 28 grams of extra alcohol.
These high-quality wines are officially tested and awarded a verification number, which must be displayed on the label.
"Prädikatsweine" (superior quality wines) are subject to the most stringent requirements. These wines are divided into six different grades ("Prädikate") according to criteria such as minimum must weight:
Wines derived from grapes with a low alcohol content. These wines are fine and light.
"Spätlese" ("Late harvest"):
As the name suggests, the grapes used for these wines are harvested late. They produce mature, elegant wines with a fruity flavour.
"Auslese" ("Select harvest"):
These wines are made exclusively from grapes which are actually ripe when they are harvested. They have therefore been "selected". These grapes produce very fine, full-bodied wines.
"Beerenauslese" ("Select berry harvest"):
The grapes used for these wines are overripe and have noble rot, a form of fungus which affects grapes and produces particularly sweet wines with a full, fruity flavour.
"Trockenbeerenauslese" ("Select dry berry harvest"):
The sweet, honey-like flavour of these wines is produced by shrivelled grapes with noble rot.
"Eiswein" ("Ice wine"):
These wines are made from grapes with the same minimum must weight as those used for "Beerenauslese" wines. However, "Eiswein" grapes are harvested and pressed in frozen conditions at -7 °C.
No "Prädikatswein" may be fortified.