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Spatlese vs Auslese: What’s the Difference?

Summary of key points

When it comes to German Riesling wines, Spatlese and Auslese are two terms that often cause confusion. Both refer to the level of ripeness of the grapes used in making the wine, but there are some key differences between them.

Spatlese translates to “late harvest” and refers to grapes that were picked later in the season when they have reached a higher level of ripeness. This results in a sweeter, fuller-bodied wine with more complex flavors. On the other hand, Auslese translates to “select harvest” and refers to grapes that were carefully selected and picked individually at their ripest point. This often results in an even sweeter and more intense wine, with concentrated flavors.

Ever find yourself staring at a wine menu, sweat beading on your forehead, trying to choose between a Spatlese and an Auslese?

We’ve been there too.

Honestly, it’s like trying to pick a favorite child. They both come from Germany, they’re both sweet, and they’re both incredibly hard to pronounce after you’ve had a couple.

The struggle is real.

Now, I remember my first dance with a bottle of Spatlese. It was light, like a feather on the tongue, yet it packed a punch with its fruity zest. My friend, on the other hand, swore by Auslese. “It’s like a sip of sunshine,” he’d say, pegging it for its richer, more intense flavor.

We could never agree.

And that’s okay. Because today, we’re here to settle this friendly feud once and for all. Not by declaring a winner, but by understanding what makes each of these German darlings tick.

Ready? Let’s crack the code together.

What is Spatlese?

Spatlese, a German term meaning “late harvest,” is a type of wine made from grapes harvested at a later ripeness.

This extra hang time means they contain more sugar, giving them a sweeter and more intense flavor.

Riesling grapes are commonly used to make Spatlese wines, although Gewurztraminer and Silvaner can be employed too.

They develop complex flavors and aromas from the ripening, such as tropical fruits, honey, and flowers.

What’s special about Spatlese is that it has a good balance between sweetness and acidity.

This makes them adaptable to a wide range of food pairings – both sweet and savory dishes.

It’s worth noting that the sweetness of Spatlese wines can vary depending on the particular vineyard and winemaker.

The ripeness of the grapes at the time of harvest is the key factor in determining the final sweetness of the wine.

Generally speaking, they have higher sugar content than Kabinett wines but are not as sweet as Auslese wines.

What is Auslese?

Auslese is German for “selected harvest”, and stands for the finest wines.

Grapes are handpicked at peak ripeness, delivering intense sweetness and complexity.

Flavours vary from tropical fruits to honeyed nuances.

These wines are elegant and balanced.

Their concentrated aromas and textures mean they age well, developing even more character over time.

Differences Between Spatlese and Auslese

Spatlese and Auslese are two distinct categories of German wines.

Grapes Used and Ripeness Level

Let’s discover the world of unique grapes and ripeness levels.

Spatlese wines are made from ripened grapes, left on the vine for extended periods.

This results in a sweet, luscious taste.

But Auslese wines take ripeness to the next level: only select bunches of grapes affected by noble rot are chosen.

Hand-picking ensures the best fruit is used.

These grapes create an intense sweetness, with refreshing acidity.

The complexity of flavors makes Auslese truly something special.

Sugar Content (Sweetness Level)

The sugar content in Spatlese and Auslese wines is a major difference.

Spatlese wines have a higher sugar content, giving them a sweeter taste and fuller body.

Both are still considered sweet in comparison to other German wines.

Spatlese grapes are harvested later, making them ripen longer on the vine.

This leads to more sugar in the grapes and in the wine itself.

Auslese grapes have less sugar, as they’re selected from bunches with botrytis.

This mold concentrates the flavors in the grapes, resulting in a rich and aromatic wine with balanced acidity.

In the end, both Spatlese and Auslese wines are considered dessert or sweet wines.

Their sweetness differs though, due to variations in grape ripeness and selection processes.

Production Process

Production is key for Spatlese and Auslese wines.

Grapes for Spatlese are picked later, giving them higher sugar content.

Handpicking of ripe grapes makes Auslese wines superior.

These details create the unique flavor and aroma of these German wines.

Similarities Between Spatlese and Auslese

Spatlese and Auslese are unique German wines. They come from the Rheingau region of Germany.

Both are made from fully ripened grapes. Plus, they have the same Pradikatswein classification.

Despite their differences, German winemakers show their expertise with these wines.

They offer delightful flavors and aromas for wine enthusiasts to explore.

Taste and Pairing Differences

Spatlese and Auslese wines have distinct tastes.

Spatlese wines are slightly sweeter with lower alcohol content, making them great for pairing with seafood or salads.

On the other hand, Auslese wines are richer and more concentrated, and often have notes of honey or tropical fruits.

They are perfect for pairing with stronger flavors like roasted meats or aged cheeses.

It is important to consider these nuances when selecting wine to enhance your dining experience.

Flavor Profiles

Wine-lovers must understand the difference between Spatlese and Auslese.

The former is medium-sweet with notes of ripe fruits and honey.

The latter is lusciously sweet with hints of apricot, peach, and tropical fruit flavors.

The ripeness level of the grapes used to make each wine affects their tastes.

Connoisseurs can then choose the perfect wine for their palate or special occasion.

Spatlese translates to “late harvest” in German. It has moderate sweetness.

It pairs well with spicy Asian dishes or creamy cheeses. Auslese means “selected harvest”.

Its high sugar concentration gives it a sweet taste.

It pairs with light desserts or is enjoyable on its own as a dessert wine.

Understanding the flavor profiles of these wines allows for a journey through Germany’s winemaking traditions.

Consumers can explore new avenues of pleasure.

Whether it be Spatlese or Auslese, there’s a flavor for everyone.

Culinary Complements

When it comes to culinary complements, the perfect pairing is essential.

Elevate any meal with wine – Spatlese and Auslese are two German options.

Spatlese wines are fruity, with a subtle sweetness.

They are an ideal match for dishes with a touch of spice or acidity – like roasted chicken with lemon or Thai curry.

Auslese wines have a richer, sweeter taste profile.

Pair them with desserts like fruit tarts or crème brûlée, as their intense sweetness can match the richness.

Spatlese wines are made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer, allowing them to ripen more fully and increasing the sugar content.

Auslese wines take this process further, by selecting grapes affected by noble rot.

This fungus dehydrates the grapes, intensifying their sugars and flavours.

The resulting wine is incredibly sweet and has a distinct honeyed character.

When planning your culinary pairings, consider the level of sweetness in these wines to ensure harmony.


Ultimately, it is apparent that the differences between Spätlese and Auslese wines lies in their harvest dates.

Spatlese are harvested later than Auslese and with the added hang time on the vine, receive more sun exposure resulting in a higher sugar concentration in the grapes.

While anecdotal to some extent, by harvesting late you will be rewarded with richer flavor complexity and more concentrated aromas, for which Spätlese wines are known.

The natural inclination to want richer flavors can now be understood with this Window of Quality measurement in place, allowing producers to understand what grape quality they have at any given point.

The Graderwerk Standard is key for understanding not only what is considered great wine but offers insight into when it is best harvested to achieve certain styles and characteristics desired in each variety of wine grapes available.

Spatlese vs Auslese: What’s the Difference?

Exploring the world of German Rieslings? Unravel the nuances between Spätlese and Auslese with our guide. Delve into the subtle differences in sweetness and ripeness levels, allowing you to make an informed choice when navigating the delightful spectrum of German wine offerings.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course This vs That
Servings 1 Serving


  • Spatlese
  • Auslese


  • Choose between Spatlese and Auslese based on your taste preferences and the level of sweetness you desire.
  • When selecting a wine, consider the ripeness of the grapes used in each.
  • Spatlese is slightly less ripe than Auslese and offers a lighter sweetness.
  • Auslese is made from riper grapes and tends to be sweeter.
  • Pair Spatlese with lighter dishes and Auslese with richer desserts or cheeses.
  • Enjoy the nuanced flavors of these German wines, each offering a unique taste experience.
Keyword Spatlese vs Auslese
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