Germany has long led the world in the production and classification of various styles of late harvest wines. Johannisberg Riesling and Gewürztraminer being the most commonly found varieties of late harvest designated wines. Generally, late harvest wines are the result of leaving ripe grapes on the vine for periods far in excess of their normal picking times. This results in an extreme concentration of sugars in the grapes. Many times late harvest grape clusters will be infected with botrytis cinerea mold, the famous “Noble Rot”, further concentrating the flavors and sugars.
In California, minimum standards for residual sugar at harvest have been set which are roughly in accord with the German standards (though it should be noted that California’s are higher than the roughly equivalent style). Chateau St. Jean, in Sonoma County, California, provides the following table of standards with its German equivalent: