OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bill Hooper » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:28 pm

David, forget about Classic and Selection. That you see it anymore at all surprises me because I NEVER EVER EVER see wine labeled like that in Germany anymore. Dead. Charta? Also pretty much dead -the new VDP system effectively replaces all of that and almost every great Rheingau estate (and a lot of very-less-than-great Rheingau estates) are in the VDP. Georg Breuer is one of the few glaring exceptions.

Yes, some non-VDP producers will probably continue with Spätlese Trocken etc. (and so will VDP member Koehler-Ruprecht because they like to make dry Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese from the Kallstadter Saumagen every year and their customers have come to expect it –but they are an anomaly) Starting in vintage 2012, VDP members (other than K-R) have agreed not to use Prädikat for dry wines. Like the other David points out: for Gutsweine, some Feinherb-styled wines will probably continue to be made from regions like the Nahe, Mosel, and Rheingau where market demand (mostly export) exists.

It is interesting that Austria doesn't have these classification problems despite the German language barrier. Granted, Riesling plays a very small role in regard to quantity there. Alsace gets criticized a lot for the role that sweetness plays in its wines though. What is really interesting is that hardly anyone complains about not knowing what to expect from a bottle of Loire Chenin Blanc.

Cheers,
Bill
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Hoke » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:36 pm

Chirping in, because for once I don't have a whole lot to say, except that I gave up long, long ago on expecting anything to ever come out of any German attempts to establish a reasonable and functional system or hierarchy of German wine classification.

I can look back and say now that I seemed prescient.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:22 pm

Hoke wrote:Chirping in, because for once I don't have a whole lot to say, except that I gave up long, long ago on expecting anything to ever come out of any German attempts to establish a reasonable and functional system or hierarchy of German wine classification.

I can look back and say now that I seemed prescient.


I think it was Terry Thiese who once wrote: German wine laws seem to work on the principal that they still have one good foot & five bullets left in the gun!
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:02 pm

Bill mentions Loire Chenin Blanc. I do not want to go there but excellent point!
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:35 pm

Paul Winalski wrote: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.


Paul, I hear you. German Riesling, however, is difficult to classify. The French are often more Prussian than the Germans. French wine regions require study, too, and are in many ways more organized than in Germany. Yet there are issues in France too. The 1971 German Wine Law is flawed and its QbA and QmP (now called Qualitäts- and Prädikatswein) categories are outdated.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:06 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:David, forget about Classic and Selection. That you see it anymore at all surprises me because I NEVER EVER EVER see wine labeled like that in Germany anymore. Dead. Charta? Also pretty much dead -the new VDP system effectively replaces all of that and almost every great Rheingau estate (and a lot of very-less-than-great Rheingau estates) are in the VDP. Georg Breuer is one of the few glaring exceptions.

Yes, some non-VDP producers will probably continue with Spätlese Trocken etc. (and so will VDP member Koehler-Ruprecht because they like to make dry Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese from the Kallstadter Saumagen every year and their customers have come to expect it –but they are an anomaly) Starting in vintage 2012, VDP members (other than K-R) have agreed not to use Prädikat for dry wines. Like the other David points out: for Gutsweine, some Feinherb-styled wines will probably continue to be made from regions like the Nahe, Mosel, and Rheingau where market demand (mostly export) exists.

It is interesting that Austria doesn't have these classification problems despite the German language barrier. Granted, Riesling plays a very small role in regard to quantity there. Alsace gets criticized a lot for the role that sweetness plays in its wines though. What is really interesting is that hardly anyone complains about not knowing what to expect from a bottle of Loire Chenin Blanc.

Cheers,
Bill


Bill: Studert-Prüm is in the VDP and, I believe, still uses the term Classic. The VDP classification model only applies to the VDP and a lot of great Mosel producers (Maximin Grünhaus, A.J. Adam, and Immich-Batterieberg, to name a few), are not in the club, even though more non-members are following this "evolving" model. It should be noted, too, that Heymann-Löwenstein and Van Volxem were forerunners by avoiding Prädikats for their dry-tasting wines even before joining the VDP and, at that time, no other VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer members classified in a similar way.

A lot of VDP members gave up their single-vineyard Kabinett and Spätlese trocken bottlings against their wishes. Certain producers, such as Diel, wanted Grosses Gewächs. I know Acham-Magin in Forst still bottles from various Grosse Lage sites Kabinett trocken. It's an important category for them and many others. Some of these producers only have top sites and can only bottle one dry wine with the vineyard name. The term feinherb is still misunderstood. Today, I read a well-written article from Jay McInerney in the Wall Street Journal about Terry Theise. I don't know if Theise told him that, but feinherb is not necessarily sweeter than halbtrocken nor is 28 g/l RS a "sweet spot" for German Riesling. It depends on the wine. Moreover, he doesn't import many wines at this RS level. I also don't get the Radiohead analogy, but that's another matter. The demand for Mosel Kabinett feinherb is actually in Germany. Perhaps you mean the so-called classic fruity Kabinetts.

As you know, in my two-part Kabinett article, I write about a lot of these issues. I didn't know, for example, that the Grosser Ring (VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) won't use Erste Lage in the new sense of premier cru. In addition, a "fruity" Kabinett can be from 18 to 65 g/l RS. That's a large range. How does a consumer know if the wine has 18 or 65 grams? How does a VDP producer label a light Riesling, unchaptalized, and below 18 g/l RS? What if it comes from a Grosse Lage? Well, I've heard they can apply for an exception and bottle it as Kabinett trocken. I also question the ranking of sites.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:49 pm

Lars,

Terry tries to import feinherb and halbtrocken wines, but few shops buy them. I always have to special order them.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tim York » Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:32 am

Lars Carlberg wrote: It should be noted, too, that Heymann-Löwenstein and Van Volxem were forerunners by avoiding Prädikats for their dry-tasting wines even before joining the VDP and, at that time, no other VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer members classified in a similar way.

A lot of VDP members gave up their single-vineyard Kabinett and Spätlese trocken bottlings against their wishes.


Can you explain why VDP makes such a big thing about avoiding Prädikats? I personally would understand what's going on better if the Prädikat categories were maintained and were mentioned on a back label as used to be the case at the end of the 90s with, for example, Bürklin-Wolf's up-market "dry" bottlings. I find very helpful the Kabinett or Spätlese trocken labelling and even Auslese trocken though I'd want to check the alcoholic strength of the last.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:28 am

Tim York wrote:
Lars Carlberg wrote: It should be noted, too, that Heymann-Löwenstein and Van Volxem were forerunners by avoiding Prädikats for their dry-tasting wines even before joining the VDP and, at that time, no other VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer members classified in a similar way.

A lot of VDP members gave up their single-vineyard Kabinett and Spätlese trocken bottlings against their wishes.


Can you explain why VDP makes such a big thing about avoiding Prädikats? I personally would understand what's going on better if the Prädikat categories were maintained and were mentioned on a back label as used to be the case at the end of the 90s with, for example, Bürklin-Wolf's up-market "dry" bottlings. I find very helpful the Kabinett or Spätlese trocken labelling and even Auslese trocken though I'd want to check the alcoholic strength of the last.


Tim: The VDP wants to help consumers, especially abroad, by indicating that Prädikats mean sweet. In other words, many non-German speaking consumers don't understand the terms trocken and halbtrocken, much less feinherb. In fact, the latter two terms are even confusing to Germans. What's "half-dry" or "finely bitter"? In addition, many German wine lovers in the States assume that Spätlese and Auslese means sweet, as they rarely come across "Auslese Riesling trocken." The VDP wants to avoid this confusion. It's easier then for clients to know that a Spätlese will always have noticeable residual sugar. Besides, the Prädikat sweet wines sell well abroad. Moreover, several regional VDPs want to focus more on highlighting their dry Rieslings, thus GG. Another issue is ripeness levels. Most grapes from quality-oriented growers are harvested at Auslese must weights. If you click on my article and scroll down to VDP, I delve into this topic a little more. http://www.larscarlberg.com/unlocking-the-kabinett/
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bill Hooper » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:33 am

Tim York wrote:
Lars Carlberg wrote: It should be noted, too, that Heymann-Löwenstein and Van Volxem were forerunners by avoiding Prädikats for their dry-tasting wines even before joining the VDP and, at that time, no other VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer members classified in a similar way.

A lot of VDP members gave up their single-vineyard Kabinett and Spätlese trocken bottlings against their wishes.


Can you explain why VDP makes such a big thing about avoiding Prädikats? I personally would understand what's going on better if the Prädikat categories were maintained and were mentioned on a back label as used to be the case at the end of the 90s with, for example, Bürklin-Wolf's up-market "dry" bottlings. I find very helpful the Kabinett or Spätlese trocken labelling and even Auslese trocken though I'd want to check the alcoholic strength of the last.


The Mosel might take a slightly different view of things, but here it is in part because they are meaningless. There is hardly any low-oechsle Kabinett produced these days, and no one wants to produce Auslese with too much alcohol (for dry wines anyway). Solid Spätlese is what most of the Pfalz producers are shooting for, but Spätlese still implies sweet to many consumers (which is why you don't see Prädikat on Pinot Noir -Spätburgunder- very often.)

Even producers like the aforementioned Koehler-Ruprecht and Acham-Magin have a hard time keeping must weights down and are making kabinett that in reality qualifies easily for spätlese.

A lot of producers are also trying to simplify the range of offerings. Not many producers want a wine list with 40 different wines on it- It gets redundant to list a kabi, Spätlese and Auslese trocken from 6 different vineyards.

Cheers,
Bill
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:35 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Lars,

Terry tries to import feinherb and halbtrocken wines, but few shops buy them. I always have to special order them.


My experience has been different. The importer has to be behind the wines. But then again, the NYC market is more sophisticated.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:38 am

Bill, you make excellent points. Yet the VDP classification model has plenty of issues, which I talk about in my aforementioned article.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bill Hooper » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:53 am

Thanks Lars. If you think about it, the Prädikat system is very beneficial to producers on the Mosel and Mittelrhein (and those from the Rheingau to a lesser degree). I don’t have to tell you that many of them have very small holdings (sometimes as little as 2-3 ha) and producing a Kabinett, Spätlese, *,**,*** Auslese, BA, and TBA is one way of expanding your range and hitting many different price-points. –especially if you only have one grape (Riesling) planted.

Cheers,
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bill Hooper » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:04 am

Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:Bill mentions Loire Chenin Blanc. I do not want to go there but excellent point!


Thanks Bob. I do find it odd that there just isn't the same discussion (sometimes heated) about Savennieres and Vouvray Moelleux and which style is 'best' or best-suited to Chenin Blanc, though seemingly everyone has an opinion about Riesling.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:07 am

Bill Hooper wrote:Thanks Lars. If you think about it, the Prädikat system is very beneficial to producers on the Mosel and Mittelrhein (and those from the Rheingau to a lesser degree). I don’t have to tell you that many of them have very small holdings (sometimes as little as 2-3 ha) and producing a Kabinett, Spätlese, *,**,*** Auslese, BA, and TBA is one way of expanding your range and hitting many different price-points. –especially if you only have one grape (Riesling) planted.

Cheers,
Bill


True. And the VDP has a difficult task to get all the different regional groups and producers on the same page.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:12 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Lars,

Terry tries to import feinherb and halbtrocken wines, but few shops buy them. I always have to special order them.


My experience has been different. The importer has to be behind the wines. But then again, the NYC market is more sophisticated.


Whoops...there goes another little slip of what you really think...
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:20 am

Bill Hooper wrote:
Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:Bill mentions Loire Chenin Blanc. I do not want to go there but excellent point!


Thanks Bob. I do find it odd that there just isn't the same discussion (sometimes heated) about Savennieres and Vouvray Moelleux and which style is 'best' or best-suited to Chenin Blanc, though seemingly everyone has an opinion about Riesling.


Indeed. It's a point that I often make in discussing this issue too. Vouvray has sec, demi-sec, and moelleux, plus sec tendre, which is similar to feinherb. The one difference is the predicates.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:26 am

David M. Bueker wrote:
Lars Carlberg wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Lars,

Terry tries to import feinherb and halbtrocken wines, but few shops buy them. I always have to special order them.


My experience has been different. The importer has to be behind the wines. But then again, the NYC market is more sophisticated.


Whoops...there goes another little slip of what you really think...


What do I really think, David?
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Rahsaan » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:30 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:
Bill Hooper wrote:
Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:Bill mentions Loire Chenin Blanc. I do not want to go there but excellent point!


Thanks Bob. I do find it odd that there just isn't the same discussion (sometimes heated) about Savennieres and Vouvray Moelleux and which style is 'best' or best-suited to Chenin Blanc, though seemingly everyone has an opinion about Riesling.


Indeed. It's a point that I often make in discussing this issue too. Vouvray has sec, demi-sec, and moelleux, plus sec tendre, which is similar to feinherb. The one difference is the predicates.


There are debates about which style suits the appellations best, and there are debates about the commercial viability of various styles (witness the Pinguet departure debate). But perhaps those discussions are less heated because the Loire is really the only game for chenin blanc (sorry South Africa, it's true). For riesling, you can compare the off-dry Mosel wines to other regions in Germany, or Austria, or Alsace.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:35 am

Rahsaan, I agree. Your point about Huet is a good one.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Kelly Young » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:40 am

Bill Hooper wrote:
A lot of producers are also trying to simplify the range of offerings. Not many producers want a wine list with 40 different wines on it- It gets redundant to list a kabi, Spätlese and Auslese trocken from 6 different vineyards.

Cheers,
Bill


But I thought part of the whole idea of fine wine, certainly for most folks who value the idea of terroir (sorry I know that's a whole 'nother discussion), is to differentiate the Dieserkleinishceweinberg Sonnenuhr Auslese Trocken from the Dasandereweinberg Himmelreich Auslese Trocken.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Bill Hooper » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:05 am

Kelly Young wrote:
Bill Hooper wrote:
A lot of producers are also trying to simplify the range of offerings. Not many producers want a wine list with 40 different wines on it- It gets redundant to list a kabi, Spätlese and Auslese trocken from 6 different vineyards.

Cheers,
Bill


But I thought part of the whole idea of fine wine, certainly for most folks who value the idea of terroir (sorry I know that's a whole 'nother discussion), is to differentiate the Dieserkleinishceweinberg Sonnenuhr Auslese Trocken from the Dasandereweinberg Himmelreich Auslese Trocken.


Thats not what I mean. We love to make single vineyard wines (as long as the vineyard is interesting) but without Prädikat, the vineyard becomes the focus, not the 5 or six different wines made from it Kabinett thru TBA. One could even go so far as to say that producing 6 different Prädikat wines from a single source diminishes the influence of terroir. No one is going to harvest all of the vinegar and botrytis and throw it into the press with the healthy grapes in search of ‘true terroir’ of course.

Cheers,
Bill
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:06 am

Kelly Young wrote:
Bill Hooper wrote:
A lot of producers are also trying to simplify the range of offerings. Not many producers want a wine list with 40 different wines on it- It gets redundant to list a kabi, Spätlese and Auslese trocken from 6 different vineyards.

Cheers,
Bill


But I thought part of the whole idea of fine wine, certainly for most folks who value the idea of terroir (sorry I know that's a whole 'nother discussion), is to differentiate the Dieserkleinishceweinberg Sonnenuhr Auslese Trocken from the Dasandereweinberg Himmelreich Auslese Trocken.


Kelly,

Having three trockens from the same site does not really advance the terroir argument much more than 1 would. That's especially true when all grapes are getting so ripe these days. Kabinett is now what used to be auslese anyway.

Lars,

Mostly a little sarcasm, but you do imply that folks from NY are sophisitcated enough to enjoy the drier wines (or perhaps just want to enjoy them...hmm), while the rest of us hicks...
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:15 am

David M. Bueker wrote:
Kelly,

Having three trockens from the same site does not really advance the terroir argument much more than 1 would. That's especially true when all grapes are getting so ripe these days. Kabinett is now what used to be auslese anyway.

Lars,

Mostly a little sarcasm, but you do imply that folks from NY are sophisitcated enough to enjoy the drier wines (or perhaps just want to enjoy them...hmm), while the rest of us hicks...


David, I'm from Central Texas and live in provincial Trier, not NYC. But it has been my experience that wine buyers in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as with fashion and other matters, are often a step ahead. This doesn't mean that other parts of the States are less open to other styles. Portland, San Francisco, Boston, Durham, Austin, and many other cities have had an interest in dry German Riesling.
Last edited by Lars Carlberg on Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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