OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

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OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Paul Winalski » Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:41 pm

Germany is notorious for making life difficult for the wine consumer, when it comes to classification schemes.

The Burgundians cast similar massive roadblocks to our ability to grok their wine, granted. But they take a disorganized French approach to obfuscation. The problem with the Germans is that, when they're hell-bent on making it difficult for the consumer to understand anything about their wines, they are ORGANIZED and DISCIPLINED about how they make thing difficult--in a way the French are too disorganized to accomplish.

I'm talking about this new schema--that I know ZERO about--that apparently has arisen recently.

I actually grokked the 1971 German wine laws. Maybe they weren't perfect, but they were comprehensible.

Now there are these new categories such as GG and Estate and Wotan-knows-what--outside the 1971 Qualitateiswien and Praedikat regulations.

And I, who thought I understood German wine, find myself back at square one, wondering TWF this is all about.

And, more importantly (both for me and for those who are marketing German wine), I'm wondering why the F I should care about the new classification crap, or should I just continue to buy based on QdP classification?

From my perspective, the German wine producers have just put another major roadblock in the way of my understanding and appreciating their wines--as if there weren't already enough such barriers in the way.

Can someone explain to a person who understood the former QbA/QdP system what the new order in German wines is all about?

My brain hurts.

-Paul W.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tom Troiano » Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:19 pm

I don't feel great about this and I know I'm missing a lot of great stuff but I find myself not buying much/any German wine for the reason you mention.

That said, I sometimes wonder if we're (or, I'm) less tolerant of this in Germany than in France or Italy. That is, I wonder if I have this built in bias that causes me to be unwilling to learn more.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:00 am

Estate is no different than anywhere else. It's what a number of producers (e.g. Donnhoff) now call their qba.

GG=Grosses Gewachs, a wine from a top classified site that is essentially dry. They ome in extra tall, heavier bottles.

Not all that confusing.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:27 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Estate is no different than anywhere else. It's what a number of producers (e.g. Donnhoff) now call their qba.

GG=Grosses Gewachs, a wine from a top classified site that is essentially dry. They ome in extra tall, heavier bottles.

Not all that confusing.

But GG is only for certain regions, isn't it? Then there is Erste Lage, which is slightly different and for other regions. That is all from memory, and doubtless flawed - but that is my point - I agree with Paul. Also, new labels, whether GG or less grand, now seem to omit lots of 71-style information I used to find helpful.

The 71 system allows for vineyards on the label. And it is easy to establish the quality of a vineyard with reference books. If there was a need to make vineyard quality more official, an official nationwide rating could have been established. Stick trocken or halbtrocken on the label, and you have everything you need. Perhaps, with the increasing volume of dry wines, a switch could be made to make trocken the default.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:39 am

Steve, good imput. Most punters in my area are rightly confused and still insist that "these wines are too sweet". Ok, been there before but now I have to describe trocken, feinherb, gold label blah blah.
Ain`t it fun :lol:

Think Tim will be here shortly, I hear heavy breathing!
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tim York » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:17 am

Fresh from having a tussle with my bank about a foul up with internet access to my account, this just sends my blood pressure count up a further few notches :twisted: .

Let me say that Paul has expressed perfectly my own feelings in the matter, other than being rather unfair to the Burgundians, IMHO. The trouble is that amongst GGs, ELs, etc. (one producer even has GCs = Grands Crus), there are many wines very well worth drinking and better. So, failing a serious attempt to rationalise and relate to the 1971 law (let's not hold our breath), there is little substitute to trying to understand what is going on.

Somewhere I saw a pyramid shaped diagram which seeks to explain the interface between the various categories but it's pretty mind boggling. If I find it, I'll post a link.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tim York » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:50 am

Try the balloons on this page http://www.germanwineestates.com/unders ... labels.htm . I think that this supersedes the pyramid which I remember and is a bit clearer. I love the German euphemism :? of "fruity" when meaning sweet. I suppose that the absence of gradations of sweetness, other than "fruity" and "sweet" is justifiable because of the prevalence of downgrades from higher categories :roll: .
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:06 am

Perhaps Lars will chime in, as he tends to have the up to the minute info.

But...there has been some harmonization around Grosses Gewachs, though I am still not sure how the Rheingau does or does not fit in. Even the Mosel is going to Grosses Gewachs.

I cannot see why the term "Estate Riesling" would bother anyone... :roll:
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bill Hooper » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:56 am

In 2012, the VDP released new guidelines in an attempt to make all of this easier for consumers (and to undermine or minimize the 1971 wine laws). Many non-VDP estates are also following suit. It really isn’t all that difficult if you understand the Burgundy classification:

Gutsweine: Estate wines –basic wines produced from a variety of holdings. Max 105hl/ha (which is the maximum allowed in Germany for any wine.)

Ortsweine: Village wines –wines made from vineyard holdings in one village 75 hl/ha max.

Erste Lagen: Premier Cru –Max 60hl/ha, at least Spätlese must weight

Grosse Lagen: Grand Cru. –Max 50hl/ha, at least Spätlese must weight

Dry wines are labeled GG (Grosses Gewächs)

Sweet wines are labeled with Prädikat (Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese).

Only specific varieties apply (Usually Riesling, Spätburgunder and Weißburgunder +regionally typical grape varieties: Silvaner in Franken, Lemberger in Württemberg, Grauburgunder in Baden for example.)

Bürklin-Wolf (as Tim pointed out) uses Estate, Village, PC, and GC. All of these wines are dry anyway. (they do make nobel-sweet wines in addition, but without the classification.)

So: Prädikat=sweet, no Prädikat=dry

Voila. The rest you don’t really need to know if you don’t care to learn it.

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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Paul Winalski » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:01 am

Bill,

Thanks for the explanation.

"Grosse Lagen" is an unfortunate choice of term. I had it confused with "Grosslagen" in the old system.

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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bill Hooper » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:08 am

Paul Winalski wrote:Bill,

Thanks for the explanation.

"Grosse Lagen" is an unfortunate choice of term. I had it confused with "Grosslagen" in the old system.

-Paul W.


I agree, but there isn't really a good substitute in German. Grosse Lagen is GRAND site, Grosslagen is LARGE site. It's kind of a moot point these days anyway as very few producers use the old Grosslagen names, and VDP estates aren't allowed to used them.

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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:35 am

Bill - one thing that is a bit confusing from your post is the following line:

Dry wines are labeled GG (Grosses Gewächs)

Only dry wines from the appropriately classified sites can carry GG designation.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bill Hooper » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:50 am

Yes, GGs come only from Grosse Lagen (I can't use the TAB key on this forum for some reason.)
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:21 pm

No pradikat=dry?

What about the Donnhoff Estate Riesling (the non-dry one) to give an example. No pradikat, but it's not dry.

Not trying to be obtuse, but despite the fact that I pretty much get the system, it is not nearly as simple as anyone would have us believe.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tim York » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:30 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:No pradikat=dry?

What about the Donnhoff Estate Riesling (the non-dry one) to give an example. No pradikat, but it's not dry.

Not trying to be obtuse, but despite the fact that I pretty much get the system, it is not nearly as simple as anyone would have us believe.


Anyone who fully understands all the highways and byways of present day German wine labelling and can keep up to date with frequent tweaks should win a degree in advanced wine geekery :wink: .
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tom Troiano » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:57 pm

This probably sums it up. Within about 12 hours David B said:

1. Not all that confusing.
2. it is not nearly as simple as anyone would have us believe
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:12 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:This probably sums it up. Within about 12 hours David B said:

1. Not all that confusing.
2. it is not nearly as simple as anyone would have us believe


Precisely!

I could say the same thng about Burgundy.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tom Troiano » Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:47 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:
Precisely! I could say the same thng about Burgundy.


I agree and that's why I can't help but wonder if we have this built in bias against German wines and a bias for French wines.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tim York » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:27 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:
Precisely! I could say the same thng about Burgundy.


I agree and that's why I can't help but wonder if we have this built in bias against German wines and a bias for French wines.


I don't agree about Burgundy which has just one system not two (competing?) ones. The hierarchy from the regional appellation Bourgogne via B-Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune or Nuits to communal appellations, e.g. Gevrey-Chambertin, and then onto 1er Cru (G-C Le Clos Saint-Jacques) to Grand Cru (Le Chambertin) seems quite clear to me though I don't pretend to know by heart all the vineyard names and the categories into which they fall.

The VDP's ambition to parallel this would be laudable if there were not so much confusion and overlap with the 1971 system and around degrees of sweetness; the latter is, of course, a problem which Burgundy does not have (officially).
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:30 pm

I just saw Bill`s comment on classification......"In 2012, the VDP released new guidelines in an attempt to make all of this easier for consumers (and to undermine or minimize the 1971 wine laws). Many non-VDP estates are also following suit. It really isn’t all that difficult if you understand the Burgundy classification":


Great for those in the know but how the heck the average wine buyer (who thinks German wines too sweet) is going to figure it out?
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:37 pm

Bob - the person who thinks German wine is too sweet is not going to be swayed by any labeling scheme, or even a bone dry wine. Their mind is made up. I've seen it in action (as has Terry Theise) where a truly sweet Chardonnay (e.g. KJ) is preferred for its dryness over a bone dry Riesling.

Tom T.: I think part of the issue for German wines is that the names sounds like crap. Would the gentleman prefer the Forster Schnepfenflug or the Chassagne-Montrachet?
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tom Troiano » Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:09 pm

David M. Bueker wrote: I think part of the issue for German wines is that the names sounds like crap. Would the gentleman prefer the Forster Schnepfenflug or the Chassagne-Montrachet?


I agree.

Someone who I've been chatting with about this said:

The real problem with German wines is the difficulty most people have with German words. While many are close relatives to English (a Teutonic language btw) its forms for plurals adjectives and its love of compounding adjectives into nouns does them in. They might get Trockenbeerenauslese but Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatburgunder-Weissherbts Kabinet and they are stymied.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:26 pm

For anyone wanting enlightenment, but at the risk of further confusion, I can recommend the article "The Eagle is Landing" in World of Fine Wine issue 30. After I first read it, I thought I understood, but promptly forgot everything. Oh, and if you are up for more, read David Schildknecht's reply letter in the following issue. If you can get through to the end of that, you are a true wine geek - I lost the will to live half way through.

I prefer the older-style sweet wines anyway, which reduces my enthusiasm to learn. Those have little or no competition if you want a light sweet wine. Germany's dry wines can be good, but the really dry ones (I often find even trocken wines have discernable RS) compete with the rest of the world.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David Creighton » Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:39 pm

have we scratched the surface yet? haven't seen anyone mention 'Classic' and 'Selection' which now appear on lots of german labels. and there there are the Charta labels. and i'm pretty sure that there can be a Spaetlese Trocken so not all predikat wines are sweet. sorry, burgundy is a snap by comparison.
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