The best Beerenauslesen - from Scheurebe and Riesling
Beerenauslese wines are made from fully ripe to overripe, partly botrytised and exclusively hand-picked grapes. Mechanical harvesting is explicitly prohibited for Beerenauslese and the even higher quality Trockenbeerenauslese. The Botrytis cinerea mould on the vine is not mandatory in German and Austrian wine law, but it is only the Botrytis cinerea that gives these wines their specific character. The best Beerenauslese wines are made from the grape varieties Scheurebe and Riesling - in these wines high acidity and concentrated sweetness correspond in a particularly complex way.
Manual harvest & fermentation without added sugar
Manual picking of the berries must be carried out very precisely so that only berries that are actually suitable enter the production process. Generally, not all berries are selected from a bunch.
The weather also plays a role in the harvesting of these harvested grapes: optimal are weather conditions in which early mist promotes the development of noble rot, but the days are still warm enough for drying the berries. The interaction of noble rot and evaporation/drying increases the concentration of the ingredients in the berries, and specific aromas develop due to the influence of Botrytis cinerea.
No sugar may be added before, during or after fermentation in order to increase the degree of sweetness and thus the alcohol content of the wine. An increase in residual sweetness by grape must of at least the same or higher quality (from Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese) is permitted by the Wine Act.
The production of Beerenauslese as Eiswein is also permitted: Prädikatswein (special quality wines) from overripe berries, harvested and pressed at temperatures of - 8 degrees Celsius, are considered Eiswein. As a rule, they are not affected by Botrytis cinerea.
High must weights and long fermentation times
Depending on the wine-growing region, the must weight for Beerenauslese wines must reach between 110 and 128 degrees Oechsle. In Germany, only berries with a must weight of at least 125 degrees Oechsle are used for these wines. In the Baden wine-growing region, the minimum requirements are 127 to 128 degrees Oechsle, depending on the grape variety; in Austria they start at 127 degrees Oechsle.
For comparison: the minimum must weight of Trockenbeerenauslese grapes must be at least 150 degrees Oechsle. The fermentation is usually stopped after a certain period of time by cold, so that the wine usually comes to rest at high sweetness and a moderate alcohol content below 10% vol.
Maturation takes place mostly in stainless steel, but also in large wooden barrels of 600 litres and more. High-quality Beerenauslese wines only reach their final profile during a longer period of bottle maturation.
Top qualities from Germany, Austria and France
Some of the best Beerenauslese wines come from the Moselle, the Nahe, the Rheingau and the wine region around Lake Neusiedl in Austria. They are considered rare international top wines. The French counterpart to the German and Austrian Beerenauslese are high-quality dessert wines, which come, for example, from the Sauternes wine region in Bordeaux or from Alsace, where the Beerenauslese is known as "Sélections de Grains Nobles".