German wine can be confusing, especially when words like “Trockenbeerenauslese” appear on the label.
When you break it down though, it’s actually quite simple and (dare I say) efficient.
So “trocken” is German for dry, but in this case, it’s not the wine that’s dry. It’s the grapes or berries (“beeren”). “Lese” is harvest, and “spatlese” would be late harvest. “Auslese” refers to an extra-late harvest.
So late, in fact, that the individual berries on the vine have lost an element of their moisture and have partially dried out in the sun.
So, a “Trockenbeerenauslese” wine is one where the dry berries are picked individually by hand following an extremely late harvest. Simple.
The wine will therefore be lovely and sweet, and (unfortunately) expensive.
You pay a premium as the yield using this method is so low. But the wines are delightful, and can be enjoyed as a lush aperitif or with a fruit-based dessert, or with a nice blue cheese. Roquefort is my favourite match.
Lenz Moser Prestige
Trockenbeerenauslese 2015 (Inverarity One to One, £13.99 for 37.5cl).
Lenz Moser are based in Rohrendorf in Austria, and this is a remarkable wine as well as being remarkably good value.
This standard of Trockenbeerenauslese from the Mosel would fetch perhaps twice the price. It’s lush and sweet on the palate with a lovely, clean acidity providing the all-important balance.
If that sounds a little too sweet for your taste, try a bottle of the Donnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spatlese
2013 (Woodwinters, £24.50). Helmut Donnhoff is one of the most talented winemakers currently working in Europe and his wines are a delight.
I’d advise calling ahead and checking availability as there’s never much of his stuff around. Cheers!