Friday, June 21, 2013

German Wine Classifications

(I think this is from either Wikipedia or some other random wine site.  I'm sorry that I can’t attribute it's origin.  I’m posting it as a reference for the future since it is quite comprehensive.)

German wine classification is sometimes the source of confusion, especially to non-German speakers. However, to those familiar with the terms used, a German wine label reveals much information about the quality level and dryness/sweetness of the wine.

  • Deutscher Tafelwein (German table wine) is mostly consumed in the country and not exported.
  • Deutscher Landwein (German country wine) comes from a larger designation and again doesn't play an important role in the export market.
  • Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) wines are simple wines that meet the first level of quality.
  • Prädikatswein, recently (August 1, 2007) renamed from Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) wines are of greater quality. The grapes for these wines must meet a certain level of ripeness. As ripeness increases, the fruit characteristics and price increase.
    • Kabinett wines are made from grapes picked several days after the QbA grapes are picked. These are the first picked grapes of the Prädikat level.
    • Spätlese wines ("late harvest") are made from grapes harvested 12-14 days after the Kabinett grapes are picked.
    • Auslese wines ("select harvest") are made from grapes that have been hand-selected out from the other grapes. These grapes are late-harvest and have a high sugar content.
    • Beerenauslese wines ("berry selection") are made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer than the Auslese grapes. These grapes develop the fungus Botrytis, which removes the moisture from the grape. Thus these wines are very sweet and make good dessert wines.
    • Eiswein (ice wine) wine is made grapes that freeze naturally on the vine and reach a sweetness of Beerenauslese level. The grapes are harvested and pressed in the frozen state. The ice keeps part of the water isolated to achieve the high sugar content of these wines.
    • Trockenbeerenauslese wines ("dry berries selection") are extremely sweet, concentrated and usually quite expensive wines. The grapes used for Trockenbeerenauslese have reached an even more raisin-like state than those used for Beerenauslese.

In addition, wines are classified by the Verband Deutscher Prädikatswein (VDP). Top wines are classified according to region and the very best vineyards.

On wine labels, German wine may be classified according to the residual sugar of the wine. Trocken refers to dry wine. These wines have less than 9 grams/liter of residual sugar. These bottles are usually identified by a yellow-coloured capsule. Halbtrocken wines are off-dry and have 9-18 grams/liter of residual sugar. Due to the high acidity ("crispness") of many German wines, the taste profile of many halbtrocken wines fall within the "internationally dry" spectrum rather than being appreciably sweet. "Feinherb" wine are slightly more sweet than halbtrocken wines.

There are also several terms to identify the grower and producers of the wine.

  • Weingut refers to a wine producing estate.
  • Weinkellerei refers to a winery.
  • Winzergenossenschaft refers to a winegrowers' co-operative wine.
  • Gutsabfüllung refers to a grower/producer wine that is estate bottled.
  • Abfüller refers to a bottler or shipper.

If the suffix "-er" appears after the name of the town, the wine comes from a particular vineyard located in that town.

Regions: Germany's 13 regions for quality wine

The wine regions in Germany usually referred to are the 13 defined regions for quality wine. The German wine industry has organised itself around these regions and their division into districts. However, there are also a number of regions for the seldom-exported table wine (Tafelwein) and country wine (Landwein) categories. Those regions with a few exceptions overlap with the quality wine regions. In order to make a clear distinction between the quality levels, the regions and subregions for different quality level have different names on purpose, even when they are allowed to be produced in the same geographical area.

There are 13 defined regions for quality wine in Germany[2][7]:

1. Ahr - a small region along the river Ahr, a tributary of Rhine, that despite its northernly location primarily produces red wine from Spätburgunder.

2. Baden - in Germany's southwestern corner, across river Rhine from Alsace, and the only German wine region situated in European Union wine growing zone B rather than A, which results in higher minimum required maturity of grapes and less chaptalisation allowed.[8] Noted for its pinot wines - both red and white. Although the Kaiserstuhl region in the wine growing region of Baden is Germany's warmest location, the average temperature in the whole wine region is a little bit lower than in Palatinate (zone A). One of two wine regions in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg.

3. Franconia or Franken - around portions of Main river, and the only wine region situated in Bavaria. Noted for growing many varieties on chalky soil and for producing powerful dry Silvaner wines.

4. Hessische Bergstraße (Hessian Mountain Road) - a small region in the federal state Hesse dominated by Riesling.

5. Mittelrhein - along the middle portions of river Rhine, primarily between the regions Rheingau and Mosel, and dominated by Riesling.

6. Mosel - along the river Moselle (Mosel) and its tributaries, the rivers Saar and Ruwer, and was previously known as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. The Mosel region is dominated by Riesling grapes and slate soils, and the best wines are grown in dramatic-looking steep vineyards directly overlooking the rivers. This region produces wine that is light in body, crisp, of high acidity and with pronounced mineral character. The only region to stick to Riesling wine with noticeable residual sweetness as the "standard" style, although dry wines are also produced.

7. Nahe - around the river Nahe where volcanic origins give very varied soils. Mixed grape varieties but the best known producers primarily grow Riesling, and some of them have achieved world reputation in recent years.

8. Palatinate or Pfalz - the second largest producing region in Germany, with production of very varied styles of wine (especially in the southern half), where red wine has been on the increase. The northern half of the region is home to many well known Riesling producers with a long history, which specialize in powerful Riesling wines in a dry style. Warmer than all other German wine regions. Until 1995, it was known in German as Rheinpfalz.[9]

9. Rheingau - a small region situated at a bend in river Rhine which give excellent conditions for wine growing. The oldest documented references to Riesling come from the Rheingau region[10] and it is the region where many German wine making practices have originated, such as the use of Prädikat designations, and where many high-profile producers are situated. Dominated by Riesling with some Spätburgunder. The Rheingau Riesling style is in-between Mosel and the Palatinate and other southern regions, and at its finest combines the best aspects of both.

10. Rheinhessen or Rhenish Hesse - the largest production area in Germany. Once known as Liebfraumilch land, but a quality revolution has taken place since the 1990s. Mixed wine styles and both red and white wines. The best Riesling wines are similar to Palatinate Riesling - dry and powerful. Despite its name, it lies in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, not in Hesse.

11. Saale-Unstrut - one of two regions in former East Germany, situated along the rivers Saale and Unstrut, and Germany's northernmost wine growing region.

12. Saxony or Sachsen - one of two regions in former East Germany, in the southeastern corner of the country, along the river Elbe in the federal state of Saxony.

13. Württemberg - a traditional red wine region, where grape varieties Trollinger (the region's signature variety), Schwarzriesling and Lemberger outnumber the varieties that dominate elsewhere. One of two wine regions in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg.

These 13 regions (Anbaugebiete) are broken down into 39 districts (Bereiche) which are further broken down into collective vineyard sites (Großlagen) of which there are 167. The individual vineyard sites (Einzellagen) number 2,658.[11]


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