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Germany

To the uninitiated, one glance at a seemingly indecipherable German wine label might be all it takes for an American to start reaching for any other bottle that looks friendlier and more familiar.

That's a great shame because Germany makes oodles of blockbuster wines that far too many wine lovers know nothing about. To make it easy for you to explore this neglected treasure trove of great wine, here are a few of the most important things to remember.

White wine wonderland: Germany is best known for its stunning variety of white wines, ranging from bone dry to syrupy sweet—at several different quality levels. As a consumer, your first step should be to make sure you're buying the highest-quality German wine, distinguished by the words Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, or "QmP" on the label.

Sweetness: QmP wines are categorized by the sweetness of the grapes when harvested. Fortunately, in most instances there's a strong correlation between grape sweetness at harvest and sweetness of the finished wine. If you're looking for the driest high-quality German white wine, buy one labeled, Kabinett. In ascending order of sweetness after Kabinett comes Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, and finally, Trockenbeerenauslese, a rare, stratospherically priced, intensely sweet dessert wine.

Grape varieties: Riesling is the king of German wine grapes, accounting for many of the best wines. But you also can find good wines made from Kerner, Scheurebe, Rieslaner, Gewürztraminer, and to a lesser extent, Müller-Thurgau.

Regions: Top German regions include Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Pfalz, and Nahe.

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