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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What’s the difference between the ausbruch and trockenbeerenauslese categories of dessert wines?

—Remi, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dear Remi,

Before getting into the specifics, let's first take a quick overview of Austria's prädikatswein quality classifications, which are similar to Germany's. The prädikats are categories of wine quality based on grape ripeness at harvest (determined by sugar content). Austria's categories, from least to most sugar at harvest, are: spätlese, auslese, beerenauslese (including eiswein), strohwein and trockenbeerenauslese. By comparison, Germany's prädikats are kabinett, spätlese, auslese, beerenauslese (including eiswein) and trockenbeerenauslese.

Ausbruch is a category of Austrian trockenbeerenuslese (TBA) made in the region around the Burgenland city of Rust (which is why the wines are often referred to as Ruster ausbruch). Austrian TBAs must have a minimum sugar content of 30° Klosterneuburger mostwage (KMW), which is equivalent to about 150° Oechsle or 35° Brix. They can be made either with grapes that have been affected by botrytis (or "noble rot," the same fungus responsible for the dessert wines of Bordeaux's Sauternes and Barsac regions), or with dried grapes.

—Dr. Vinny

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