Without blinding you with Wissenschaft (science), let me point out one distinction on a German label that will tell you a lot:
Look for the letters 'QBA' or 'QmP'
What do they mean?
QBA = Qualitatswein Bestimmter Anbaugebieten; phew. Or in English: Quality Wine from a Specified Area (Appellation). These wines are the 'Triple A Teams' of the German wine leagues - not quite top level wine, but pretty damn close. In addition to being produced in specific areas, QBA wines are allowed to be chaptilized. This means the winemaker may add a little somethin' somethin' called Sussreserve (sugar mixed with wine). This provides an oomph to the wine in terms of body, flavor and balance. Why do they do that? If you haven't looked at an atlas lately, Germany is pretty far North. As such, it is much easier to grow hops and barley (for Bier/Beer) instead of grapes (cool summers, early falls, late springs all spell doom for vines). These grape-hostile conditions often result in less-than-ripe grapes, which, without chaptilization, would produce bitter-beer-face wines.
QmP = Qualitatswein mit Pradikat; Or in English: Quality Wine with Special Attributes. These attributes include being made from grapes grown in the best vineyard sites. Additionally, QmP wines are not chaptilized - they are all natural, baby.
Generally speaking, QBA wines are good, straightforward, easy-drinking wines at a decent price. Try Schloss Schonborn - it's a good example of QBA-wine-hood.
Generally speaking, QmP wines are better quality, more serious, elegant wines at (usually) higher/premium prices. Get your feet wet in the world of QmP with:
Gunderloch 'Jean Baptise' Riesling Kabinett, '00 ($15)
Pale gold in color
Pears, honeysuckle and peach scents
Distinct crispness in the mouth, balanced by subtle, honey-like sweetness & a long finish
***.5 (3.5 stars out of 5)
Try it with cream-based soups and sauces. Yum.