OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Andrew Bair » Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:08 pm

Very interesting discussion/thread - I don't have much to add to it other than the Mittelrhein would be another - though much less significant - region that has been devoted to off-dry/sweet Riesling much like the Mosel and Rheingau traditionally have been. In fact, I have never had the opportunity to try a dry wine from the Mittelrhein. (Then again, some of the better Mittelrhein growers like Ratzenberger and Jost are not currently being distributed in my neck of the woods, ever since Terry Theise and Jost went their separate ways.) No question in my mind, though, that the traditional pradikats cannot be take at face value when most top producers these days are declassifying many of their wines - that said, most of us can probably agree that a BA labeled as a Spätlese isn't necessarily a better wine than a "classical" Spätlese, if that even exists anymore.
Not to get off topic, but Alsace doesn't use anything like pradikats, and those of us like myself who infrequently buy/drink Alsatian Riesling have to rely on the reputation of how sweet a given producer's wines are if we don't have much experience with their wines. That being said, it isn't though Alsatian wines are exactly flying off of shelves in the US these days.

Anyway: Lars - For whatever it is worth, the von Hovel Scharzhofberg wines have always seemed lighter to me than others' Scharzhofbergs. Not that this is a negative in my book - in fact, I like the von Hovel wines a lot, and wish that 2010 GG was available over here.

Bill - What is a Vorlese? I have never come across that term before.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:04 pm

Andrew: In the 1960s and 1970s, the trend was sweet in the Pfalz and other regions, too. As for dry or near-dry wines in the Mittelrhein, there are some good producers, like Ratzenberger, Weingart, or Matthias Müller. You make a good point about Alsace. I especially liked von Hövel's Hütte Spätlese feinherb 2010, but Scharzhofberg often has an appealing smoky, lean character. A Vorlese (check my glossary) means simply pre-harvest. This is when growers pick out grapes that are rotted, damaged, overripe, and so on.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Joy Lindholm » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:59 am

My understanding on the Erstes Gewächs/Grosses Gewächs / Erste Lage (based on a podcast interview I heard with Rudi Wiest) was that it is the German equivalent to the Burgundian Grand Cru system. Erstes Gewächs being specific to the Rheingau, and Grosses Gewächs / Erste Lage for other regions.

To quote the magazine Ochsle put out by the German Wine Institute in this last summer's issue:
" Erstes Und Grosses Gewächs (First and Great Growth) In the Rheingau region in the top segment the term Erstes Gewächs (First Growth) can be found on the label. These wines are subject to stringent quality guidelines such as low yields, hand picking and pruning, and the vineyards from which these wines may come are clearly defined parcels of land. First Growths may only be produced from Riesling and Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder). With a maximum of 13 g/l residual sugar they are more likely to be classified as dry. They also have to pass an additional sensory evaluation. Outside of the Rheingau, these top class dry wines (made from different grapes, typical for their growing season), defined by the classification model of the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) - Association of German certified wineries - are called Großes Gewächs. On the label they can be identified by the initials "GG".

Also, a Huffington Post article from a few months ago on the VDP (sorry if someone else has already posted this link): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-jennings/germanys-top-dry-riesling_b_1921259.html
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Victorwine » Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:21 am

I have a question for David, Bill, or Lars
I thought that the sites or well-defined parcels of land designation as Erstes Gewächs or Grosses Gewächs came with a QbA or QmP designation “attached” to it? So technically not only defining the site but also the type of wine it produces?

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

Postby Joy Lindholm » Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:28 am

From the VDP http://www.vdp.de/en/classification/

"A dry wine from a VDP.GROSSE LAGE is designated VDP.GROSSES GEWÄCHS and labeled "Qualitätswein trocken". A wine with natural, ripe sweetness from a VDP.GROSSE LAGE is labeled with one of the traditional Prädikats: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein or Trockenbeerenauslese."
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:19 am

One of the things that seems to be missing from the "new system" is a classification of lower quality dry wines. It all seems to be about promotion of the very best. Where are the equivalents of Burgundy's 1er Cru, and village wines?

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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:49 am

Victorwine wrote:I have a question for David, Bill, or Lars
I thought that the sites or well-defined parcels of land designation as Erstes Gewächs or Grosses Gewächs came with a QbA or QmP designation “attached” to it? So technically not only defining the site but also the type of wine it produces?

Salute


Victor, I was about to refer you to the VDP site, but Joy already did so. The dry and off-dry wines are Qualitätswein (former QbA) and the sweet wines are Prädikatswein (former QmP). Qualitätswein, including GG, can be chaptalized. A sweet wine can be bottled as Qualitätswein (i.e., without a Prädikat), too.

Steve, if you click on the VDP link, you'll see that it does have the equivalent of premier cru (Erste Lage) and village (Ortswein). The lesser dry to off-dry wines go either in an Orts- or Gutswein.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Victorwine » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:09 am

Thanks Joy and Lars,
So technically speaking according to the VDP in the upper tier where the site is designated as a Grosse Lage (Great Site), a dry wine produced from a Grosse Lage is labeled a Grosse Gewächs Qualitätswein trocken (a dry quality wine produced from a great site that produced fruit of Great Growth) whereas a natural sweet wine from the same Grosse Lage is labeled Grosse Lage with the appropriate Prädikats attached (a wine produced from a great site with a given degree of natural sweetness). Why use the term “Gewächs” (“Growth”) to designated only dry wines? Since the term “growth” mainly is used in reference to the condition of the fruit when harvested. To produce a great dry or great sweet wine you need a great site and (the appropriate) great growth. A great site does not always produce a “great” growth. (Why not just follow the “lower” VDP designations?)

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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:24 am

Victor,

You are expecting logic? They chose a name. It was chosen in an environment where dry wines are valued (far) above sweet wines.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:29 am

Yes, that's correct, Victor. The VDP's choice of terms is less than ideal, especially for non-German speakers. Moreover, the VDP has replaced Erste Lage with Grosse Lage. Now, it's like in Burgundy with premier cru and grand cru. That's true. Gewächs means "growth," in the sense of cru, rather than fruit. It's just another term for grand cru. In other words, a GG must come from a Grosse Lage ("great site"). GG is an extra designation signalizing the best dry wine from a top-designated site.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tim York » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:40 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:
Steve, if you click on the VDP link, you'll see that it does have the equivalent of premier cru (Erste Lage) and village (Ortswein). The lesser dry to off-dry wines go either in an Orts- or Gutswein.


Lars, how far are VDP growers using these lower categories?

I could live with the "Burgundian" system towards which the VDP seems to be groping plus continued use of the prädikats for the sweeter categories PROVIDED THAT the system were generalised and stable and that there were a maximum öchsle count for each category as well as a minimum so as to boost credibility by preventing downgraded "higher" categories. Adoption of the International Riesling Foundation's dryness/sweetness code would be a very welcome bonus, particularly so as to suss out those " dry" GGs with 13g/l RS.

At the risk of being boring, I will restate that what I can't live with is the coexistence, even competition, of two different systems :evil: . One has to know by heart which producer is VDP and which is not and, in the case of VDP producers, which wines are using VDP nomenclature and which are not. Even non-VDP producers such as von Schubert are tweaking their nomenclatures in a confusing way, e.g. dropping "Spätlese trocken" from the Abtsberg Alte Reben cuvée :( and having a "Superior" cuvée (meaning?), but kudos to him for adopting a dryness/sweetness scale :D .
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:52 am

Tim - what's wrong with downgrading? Isn't your real concern sweetness level? If the wine ferments dry, do you really care that there is auslese quality must in there?
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:12 am

Tim York wrote:
Lars Carlberg wrote:
Steve, if you click on the VDP link, you'll see that it does have the equivalent of premier cru (Erste Lage) and village (Ortswein). The lesser dry to off-dry wines go either in an Orts- or Gutswein.


Lars, how far are VDP growers using these lower categories?

I could live with the "Burgundian" system towards which the VDP seems to be groping plus continued use of the prädikats for the sweeter categories PROVIDED THAT the system were generalised and stable and that there were a maximum öchsle count for each category as well as a minimum so as to boost credibility by preventing downgraded "higher" categories. Adoption of the International Riesling Foundation's dryness/sweetness code would be a very welcome bonus, particularly so as to suss out those " dry" GGs with 13g/l RS.

At the risk of being boring, I will restate that what I can't live with is the coexistence, even competition, of two different systems :evil: . One has to know by heart which producer is VDP and which is not and, in the case of VDP producers, which wines are using VDP nomenclature and which are not. Even non-VDP producers such as von Schubert are tweaking their nomenclatures in a confusing way, e.g. dropping "Spätlese trocken" from the Abtsberg Alte Reben cuvée :( and having a "Superior" cuvée (meaning?), but kudos to him for adopting a dryness/sweetness scale :D .


Tim, I feel like the press speaker for the VDP. A leading member of the VDP read my two-part Kabinett article and was somewhat defensive, as I bring up some points that are critical. Anyhow, the VDP is going in the direction that you "could live with." For example, they already have a maximum Öchsle limit for Kabinett. They also require the designation "trocken" for the legally dry wines. (GG is by definition trocken and doesn't have this term on the label.)

The VDP is fighting against the 1971 German Wine Law. They can only control what is done in their association and that's already difficult enough. As for von Schubert and other non-members of the VDP, I write about this in my individual producer profiles.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Fredrik L » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:21 am

I personally like the criteria the Bernkasteler Ring members (Clüsserath, Kerpen, Molitor among others) use for their Grosses Gewächs classification...

I must remember to tell Dani Vollenweider not to create special Grosse Gewächse criteria for Klitzekleiner Ring... :wink:

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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:22 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Tim - what's wrong with downgrading? Isn't your real concern sweetness level? If the wine ferments dry, do you really care that there is auslese quality must in there?


David: The issue with downgrading is not restricted to sweetness levels. A dry or off-dry Kabinett should be light, too.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tim York » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:26 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Tim - what's wrong with downgrading? Isn't your real concern sweetness level? If the wine ferments dry, do you really care that there is auslese quality must in there?


I care less about downgrading in dry wines other than the fact that it bring more alcohol than is warranted by the declared prädikat. But alcohol is a mandatory mention on the label, so it really doesn't matter a lot.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:37 am

Fredrik L wrote:I personally like the criteria the Bernkasteler Ring members (Clüsserath, Kerpen, Molitor among others) use for their Grosses Gewächs classification...

I must remember to tell Dani Vollenweider not to create special Grosse Gewächse criteria for Klitzekleiner Ring... :wink:

Greetings from Sweden / Fredrik L


Fredrik: What's the real difference with the Bernkasteler Ring's Großes Gewächs? Are you referring to the slightly higher RS limit? Many of the wines that I tasted were alcoholic and lacked charm. As far as I know, Markus Molitor doesn't use the designation. Moreover, his wines are in another league.

Daniel Vollenweider is using more or less the VDP model. His dry Rieslings have no predicates now. His quasi-GG is called Goldgrube. He also has a dry Gutsriesling (Felsenfest) and a village wine called Wolfer.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Tim York » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:47 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:Daniel Vollenweider is using more or less the VDP model. His dry Rieslings have no predicates now. His quasi-GG is called Goldgrube. He also has a dry Gutsriesling (Felsenfest) and a village wine called Wolfer.


This is just the sort of thing which gets me ranting. Is he or is he not VDP? If not, what's he doing using "more or less the VDP model"?

The situation seems one of total anarchy :shock: .

With that off my chest, let me say that Daniel is a lovely guy who makes beautiful wines :D .
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:55 am

Tim York wrote:
Lars Carlberg wrote:Daniel Vollenweider is using more or less the VDP model. His dry Rieslings have no predicates now. His quasi-GG is called Goldgrube. He also has a dry Gutsriesling (Felsenfest) and a village wine called Wolfer.


This is just the sort of thing which gets me ranting. Is he or is he not VDP? If not, what's he doing using "more or less the VDP model"?

The situation seems one of total anarchy :shock: .

With that off my chest, let me say that Daniel is a lovely guy who makes beautiful wines :D .


He's not in the VDP. But he's actually smart for following their model. We haven't even discussed the new EU-wine-labeling laws.

Daniel is indeed a nice guy and makes very good wines, especially his sweet ones.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Fredrik L » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:01 am

Lars,
I was mainly kidding, not trying to shed any real light. :wink:

Let me say though that I would prefer GG to be used for Riesling and Riesling only, and only in the best regions. Weisser Burgunder from Sachsen as GG? C´mon!

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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:05 am

Fredrik, it's no problem at all. How should Ahr VDP members designate their top Pinot Noirs then?
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:42 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Tim - what's wrong with downgrading? Isn't your real concern sweetness level? If the wine ferments dry, do you really care that there is auslese quality must in there?


David: The issue with downgrading is not restricted to sweetness levels. A dry or off-dry Kabinett should be light, too.


I largely agree (as you know from prior conversations), but the basic levels for kabinett are pretty pathetic (as we have also previosuly discussed).

Looking back at some of my favorite kabinetts (that resemble kabinett) they have generally been spatlese level, though a couple (2001 Wurzgarten and Treppchen from J. J. Christoffel) were technically auslese (barely).
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:18 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:
Lars Carlberg wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Tim - what's wrong with downgrading? Isn't your real concern sweetness level? If the wine ferments dry, do you really care that there is auslese quality must in there?


David: The issue with downgrading is not restricted to sweetness levels. A dry or off-dry Kabinett should be light, too.


I largely agree (as you know from prior conversations), but the basic levels for kabinett are pretty pathetic (as we have also previosuly discussed).

Looking back at some of my favorite kabinetts (that resemble kabinett) they have generally been spatlese level, though a couple (2001 Wurzgarten and Treppchen from J. J. Christoffel) were technically auslese (barely).


No doubt. The minimum must weights for Kabinett, Spätlese, and Auslese are too low to begin with, and most quality growers don't even pay attention to them.
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Re: OK, so WTF with German wine classification?

Postby Lars Carlberg » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:14 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:
Fredrik L wrote:I personally like the criteria the Bernkasteler Ring members (Clüsserath, Kerpen, Molitor among others) use for their Grosses Gewächs classification...

I must remember to tell Dani Vollenweider not to create special Grosse Gewächse criteria for Klitzekleiner Ring... :wink:

Greetings from Sweden / Fredrik L


Fredrik: What's the real difference with the Bernkasteler Ring's Großes Gewächs? Are you referring to the slightly higher RS limit? Many of the wines that I tasted were alcoholic and lacked charm. As far as I know, Markus Molitor doesn't use the designation. Moreover, his wines are in another league.

Daniel Vollenweider is using more or less the VDP model. His dry Rieslings have no predicates now. His quasi-GG is called Goldgrube. He also has a dry Gutsriesling (Felsenfest) and a village wine called Wolfer.


As a follow-up to my reply above, a Großes Gewächs from the Bernkasteler Ring has to be legally dry now.
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