How to Read a German Wine Label
The Legislation of the European Union only differentiates roughly
between Table Wine and Quality Wine. Member States are able to translate this Law into national conditions and allowed to add Specifications. The German Law requires much more information printed on the Wine Label of a German Wine and is quite different from most Classification Systems in other Countries. The many Classifications in Germany can be explained by the broad Diversity of the different Wine-growing Regions and the special Weather Conditions.
The official German Wine Classification is based on the Wine Law from 1971 (some changes were made since then). Included in the Law were several Factors which are helpful to grade a Wine, such as the Wine Region, the Ripeness of the Grape, the adding of Sugar or the Alcohol Content. In relation to the Wine Law from 1971 were the Wine Law of 1994 and the Wine Order of 1998 added. Federal Regulations may be also complemented by the States.
The main purpose of the Wine Law’s and Order is the Regulation of Import and Export of German Wine, the Monitoring of the national Wine Production, the Assurance of the Quality Standards and the Protection of the Wine Consumers. These points include the Limitation of Wine Production to 13 specific Regions and the Controlling of new Plantings of Vineyards. Furthermore, is the largest average Yield for a Vineyard specified and the Irrigation of Vineyards prohibited (exceptions for steep slopes and rocky soils).
Criticism of some Wine Producers led to some extra Classifications (e.g. VDP – Verband Deutscher Praedikatsweine), but without any Right of legal Protection. The main critics were that the conventional System does not differentiate between better and lesser Vineyards and that it is not appropriate to classify Dry Wines with High Quality.
Classification System for German Wine
The Label of German Wine contains mandatory information, namely the Specified Region, Quality Category, Liquid Content, Alcohol Level in Volume, Producer or Bottler and the Quality Control Test Number (A.P.Nr.). Most Wine Producer declare optional information like the Vintage, Vineyard Site, Grape Variety, Style and the amount of Residual Sugar on their Wine Label.
Based on the mentioned Laws above, there are four different Quality Levels to measure the Grade of a German Wine:
- Deutscher Tafelwein (German Table Wine)
- Deutscher Landwein (German Country Wine)
- Qualitaetswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete – QbA (Quality Wine from a Specific Region)
- Praedikatswein: (Quality Wine with Special Attributes)All quality Wines (QbA and higher) have to undergo a critical, blind, sensory Assessment and a chemical Analysis to prove their Bouquet, Taste and the Visual Appearance. This Test is based on a five-point scale and executed by the DLG (German Agricultural Society). The Test examines if the Wine is typical of the Origin, Grape Variety and Quality Grade which were stated on the Application of the Wine Producer. If the Wine passes the Judgment it receives the quality control test number (A.P.Nr.), which is a valuable Indicator for Wine Consumers.