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Kabinett is one of the six ‘Prädikat’ sub-categories defined by German wine law for QmP (‘Qualitätswein mit Prädikat’, literally ‘quality wine with distinction’) level wines on the basis of increasing grape ripeness and natural sugar content. The density of the unfermented grape must is measured on the Oechsle Scale and a ‘Prädikat’ or quality level is assigned according to the minimum levels set for each combination of grape variety and region:
Kabinett 67 - 82 °Oe
Spätlese 76 - 90 °Oe
Auslese 83 - 100 °Oe
Beerenauslese/Eiswein 110 – 128 °Oe
Trockenbeerenauslese 150 - 154 °Oe
Kabinett designates the lightest end of the spectrum and lowest potential alcohol, but it is common for the best producers to set themselves higher minimum must weights than the regulations dictate. Therefore, a Kabinett from a top estate, such as Schloss Vollrads in the Rheingau, is likely to have a higher Oechsle reading than a Spätlese from a lesser producer.
And while historically most of these wines would have had some residual sugar, today there are dry wines at this quality level, as Kabinett is a measure of the sugar level prior to fermentation, not in the finished wine.