50 Shades of Kabinett Riesling #WinePW

Wine Pairing Weekend Group (virtually) Visits Germany
Join our #WinePW group this month as we take a virtual visit to Germany. Thanks to the generosity of Winesellers, many of our group received samples of German wines for our posts. Let’s dig in to German wines and foods that pair with them. Take a look further down in this post to see all the great suggestions from our group!

Disclosure #1: I have never read any of the 50 shades books, nor have I seen the movie. Just trying to have a little fun! There is so much variety within German wine labeling, even within the sub-class of Kabinett Riesling, 50 shades may not be enough!

You might think all Kabinett Rieslings are sweet. Not so!

Confusing Wine Labeling
German wine classifications seem extremely confusing, but like many many things in Germany, they are very precise. You just need a guide to decipher the code.  Once you understand a few key principals, you can learn a lot from the label. There’s more to learn (we’re skipping VDP today), but this will be a good first step. First, a few key facts:

  • It’s cold in Germany (for growing wine grapes). Consequently, the most successful grapes are early ripening, cool climate varieties, with Riesling being the most popular and the most common.
  • German wines are labeled with the grape variety name, YAY!
  • German wines have a classification pyramid, much like the rest of Europe.
  • German wines are classified by grape, quality level, region, sub-region, vineyard, and dryness. You can learn all you need to know right from the label.
  • Not all German wines are sweet. Especially in recent years, there has been more interest in dry-style and fully dry wines.

Let’s try our luck with three different Kabinett Rieslings to see what we can find out before we open the bottles and enjoy them at dinner. We’re going to look for the information for every single row in the table below to see what we can discern about each wine.

Subject Possible label info
Grape Variety Riesling

Müller Thürgau


Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris)

Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc)

Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)

PDO Quality Classification of Origin (similar to AOC or DOC) Prädikatswein – Higher quality wine, chaptalization is not allowed. See the further classification below

Qualitätswein – basic PDO labeling, chaptalization is allowed. Good quality, but not the best.

Prädikatswein – grape must (juice) weight at harvest. Note this doesn’t necessarily equate to sweetness in the finished wine! Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)


Beerenauslese (BA)



Kabinett – lightest must weight, hence Kabinett wines will be the lightest in body of this list.

Anbaugebiete – grape growing geographic region (13 of them) Mosel







Sub-region City name with “er” appended on the end
Vineyard designation (Großlage or Einzellage) Name of the vineyard, Großlage can be very large, Einzellage is single vineyard, but you can’t tell from the label
Dryness indication (not necessarily included) No info – likely some level of residual sugar

Halb-trocken or Feinherb

Dry Style


Back label (in the US) Alcohol % abv

Please click on the photo to see the explanation in the caption, then hit “escape” to return for more fun!

OK, enough study, now let’s go taste the wines!

Disclosure: The wines for this post were provided as samples. No other compensation was involved. All opinions expressed are mine.

Exactly what I would usually expect from a Kabinett Riesling: off-dry with bracking acidity to balance the sweetness.

Bollig-Lehnert Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Kabinett 2015 (sample, $17 SRP or online here)
Weingut Bollig-Lehnert is located in the Mosel. Technical notes: 8.0% abv  59 g/l of residual sugar. About 15 teaspoons of sugar, or 3 teaspoons per glass. Wow, that seems sweet, but it’s balanced by high acidity in the wine. By the way, regular Coca-Cola runs 110 g/l sugar.

Eye: Clear, pale lemon. Very slightly, the most viscous of the three wines
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Petrol, rubber hose, band-aid, lemons and tart green apples
Mouth: Off-dry. Medium+ intensity flavor. Medium+ body, viscous. High acidity. Flavors of bright lemon and tart green apple. Puckering tartness offset by lovely sweetness. Refreshing!

Here is where we see dry-style is somewhere between off-dry and bone-dry.

Dr. Heyden Oppenheimer Riesling Kabinett Dry-Style 2016 (sample, $18 SRP or online here)
Weingut Dr. Heyden is located in the Rheinhessen Anbaugebiet, alcohol 11.5% abv, 15 g/l residual sugar

Eye: Clear, pale lemon. Coats the glass, takes a long time to form legs
Nose: Clean, medium- intensity. Very slight petrol note. White flowers, gardenias.
Mouth: Dry, likely a touch of residual sugar to offset the bright acidity. Medium flavor intensity, medium body, high acidity. Floral flavors with underripe pear, lemon rind.

This wine shows how German wines can fool you, Kabinett Riesling that is bone dry. And delicious!

Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Riesling “vom Kalk” Kabinett trocken – dry 2015 (sample, $17 SRP or online here)
Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider is located in the Rheinhessen, alcohol 13.0% abv, fermented to dryness

Eye: Clear, medium lemon (medium- if it would allowed by WSET). Mostly to distinguish this as the wine with a bit more color.
Nose: Clean, slate, gravel, merest hint of petrol far in the background.
Mouth: Dry, medium flavor intensity. High acidity, medium body, medium alcohol. Flavors of gravel, tart lemons, floral notes. Medium+ finish.

Note: After the meal, these wines rested, capped in our refrigerator for almost a week. At the end of that time, they were still fresh and delicious.  I think I liked the Georg Albrecht Schneider even better on day 7!

German Riesling with Food
Finally, enough study and tasting, let’s eat! Riesling is one of my go-to wines for spicy foods. Off-dry with high acidity is a great way to balance spiciness on the palate. We’re going to test the various levels of dryness in our wines with a spicy dish. All the wines offer plenty of freshness and acidity, but will a bit of sweetness help offset the heat of the dish? To test the theory, I went in search of a fun, spicy dish to try.

Rieslings are great partners to spicy food, like Crying Tiger Lamb!

Kabinett Riesling with Crying Tiger Lamb
I thought Julie was going to be gone for dinner, so I pulled lamb chops out of the freezer (Julie is not a lamb fan). I searched for a “spicy Thai lamb” dish and came up with Crying Tiger Lamb excerpted from Everyday Thai Cooking. As it turns out, Julie returned from her outing in time for dinner. I subbed in shrimp in lieu of lamb for her meal. The spicy shrimp were a hit as well.

I have a characteristically wimpy Minnesota palate, so I was a little concerned about the Serious Eats write-up saying this recipe pulled no punches. It certainly didn’t spare the fish sauce! Anyway, the Thai peppers at my grocery store were a little more tame than most, as I found the dish spicy but not overly so.

Our Riesling test was fun. The Bollig-Lehnart with plenty of sweetness could have easily handled more spice. The “Dry-Style” Dr. Lehnart was super nice with the food, showing just enough sweetness to balance the spice in the dish. The Georg Albert Schneider Trocken Riesling was good, it squeaked by with it’s brilliant acidity and freshness, even though the spicy lamb was a bit much for it.

Wine Pairing Weekend Group Links to German Wines
Winesellers provided a variety of wines to our group, so you’re sure to find many good ideas to try with the German wine you’ll surely want to buy! Don’t forget to join our chat on Twitter if you see this on time. We’ll be discussing our findings on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 10am CST on Twitter at the hashtag: #WinePW.


17 Responses to “50 Shades of Kabinett Riesling #WinePW”
  1. Great breakdown of an overall confusing wine system. I think my Texas palate would love the lamb. Sounds like a fun pairing experiment.

  2. Your food looks delicious as always and you made the labels seem easier to decipher. Thanks!

  3. Jill Barth says:

    I suppose we can’t fault Julie for being afraid of Crying Tiger anything… Lamb especially, for her.

    I love how you start the post like seriously I DID NOT read that book!

  4. Crying Tiger Lamb! Looks so good I forgot all about the educational wine stuff at the top. 🙂 Gabe has slowly come around to eating lamb and he loves spice, so I might try this one.

  5. Steven says:

    Excellent post! Riesling deserves a much bigger audience. Should also mention that Riesling pairs well with sweet sauces, like Roast Pork with Apple or Cherry Sauce. Two small technical “nits”: Muller-Thurgau is really a cross of Riesling and an obscure grape Madeleine Royale, bred by Hermann Muller, born in the canton of Thurgau. And Silvaner, an Austrian cross of Savagnin and Osterreichisch Weiss, is not really a Riesling. But who cares when these wines taste great and make excellent food partners. Thanks for spreading the word!

  6. I agree those German wines labels can be hard to decipher and I know some German. 50 shades is right on. Fun post and food & Riesling pairing test. Happy to hear Julie got some food she likes too!

  7. Great looking pairing. What a sweet hubby to do a last minute surf and turf. We liked the Bollig-Lehnart also.

  8. wendyklik says:

    You always have such great information in your posts Jeff. I was one that thought all Riesling was sweet before we were lucky enough to receive these samples.

  9. Good breakdown of some Riesling / German wine label basics!

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