Auslese vs. Spätlese: The Untold Similarities, Differences & Selection Criteria

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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What is Spätlese?

Spätlese is a German term for wine made from grapes that are considered fully ripe. Another characteristic of Spätlese is that it is also the lightest of the late harvest wines.

Spätlese wine can either be dry or sweet, but generally, the more popular type is a dry wine. 

There is a higher alcohol level in grapes that are harvested later in the season, but the ripeness for Spätlese is at the perfect level for popular German dry wines such as Riesling, for example.

Spätlese wine has a very intense flavor as well as high levels of acidity due to the ripeness of the grape. It also has notes of apples and pears but can also extend to citrus flavors like lemon or lime.

Close up of a wine glass with white wine in it - Auslese vs. Spätlese: The Similarities, Differences & Selection Criteria

What is Auslese?

Auslese is also a German term for wine made from grapes that are fully ripe. They are handpicked from late November to early December.

Another characteristic of Auslese wine is that the wine can only be made in years that have a good harvest due to the ripeness of the grapes at this stage of the year.

Auslese wines are known for their sweetness and high acidity, which is again a characteristic of fully ripe grapes that are harvested much later in the year than the majority of grapes. 


What Is Similar About Auslese about Spätlese?

The first similarity between Spätlese and Auslese you may have noticed (besides that they are both German terms) is that they both refer to wines that are harvested late in the year. 

Because the grapes are harvested late in the year – they are considered fully ripe and are known for high levels of intensity and acidity.

One of the consequences of a late harvest is that weather plays a big factor because there is a bigger chance the grapes can be ruined by inclement weather such as rain or cold temperatures compared to grapes that are harvested much earlier in the year.

Another similarity between Spätlese and Auslese is the flavor profile of the two. They both have notes of apple, pear, and other citrus fruits such as lemon, lime, and orange.

While they may differ in the intensity of the flavors – you will immediately notice these characteristics among other more subtle notes such as honeysuckle.


What Is The Difference Between Auslese and spotless?

While Spätlese and Ausele are both harvested later in the season – there is a distinction between the two, which is the main reason why they describe two different types of wine. 

Spätlese is harvested in the early part of the late-harvest season, while Auslese is harvested much later, towards the end of November and the beginning of December.

Because Auslese wine refers to grapes harvested later than Spätlese – the wine is generally more acidic and sweet than Spätlese wine. 

Auslese wine is more acidic and sweet than Spätlese wine, but it also has a higher alcohol level than Spätlese wines because the grapes are even riper.

We also mentioned earlier that Auslese wine is traditionally either dry or sweet, but that dry wines such as Riesling are the more popular choice. 

However, when it comes to Auslese wine – the higher alcohol level could cause the wine to become unbalanced, so Auslese wine is generally a sweet dessert wine.

Final Thoughts on Auslese Vs Spätlese

Essentially, Spätlese and Auslese are both German terms to describe wines that are made from fully ripe grapes that are harvested late in the year. 

The major difference between the two is that Spätlese is a reference to the early part of the late harvest, while Auslese refers to the latter half of the late harvest.

Spätlese and Auslese have similar flavor profiles that consist of apple, pear, citrus, and honeysuckle with varying degrees of intensity in these flavors. 

However, a major difference is in the alcohol level, which results in Spätlese wine generally being dry wine while Auslese wine is a sweet wine.

Both Spätlese and Auslese wines have a rich history in Germany, so make sure to try both types to see the difference!