German wine classification system and wine regions

Last Updated on July 27, 2022

Since we live in a wine region, we had to explore German wine classification system. And German wines are not bad at all, if you make right choice.

Wine production in Germany is regulated by the wine law. There are clearly fixed regions and types of wines.

The EU has its own classification by territory, but it was successfully integrated into the existing one, so that nothing has changed significantly.

In this post about different classifications (classic German wine classification + EU, taste, VDP), wine regions, popular sorts.

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German wine classification system

The classification of wines consists of 4 categories, depending on the sugar content and the quality of the juice from which the wine is made.

From simple to advanced

Deutscher Tafelwein

Table wine, without specifying the region. Minimum quality requirements (compliance with a typical wine of this sort, minimum errors). According to the European classification Wein ohne Herkunftsangabe.

Deutscher Landwein

Wine of a specific region. According to the European classification Wein mit geschützter geografischer Angabe (Wein g.g.A.). Should correspond to the wine of the this region (for example, in some regions it can only be dry or semi-dry).

Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA)

Wine from 13 carefully controlled regions. Sugar can be added. The wine should correspond in appearance, taste, and smell to the wine of the this region. Qualitätswein is the preferred type of wine, 70% of all wines in Germany.

This wine, like the next – predicate, corresponds to the European Wein mit geschützter Ursprungsbezeichnung (Wein g.U.) – out of 13 regions already regulated by law, they have made “protected territories”.

Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)

Prädikat means: all the same 13 regions, and besides, certain types of vines, their quantity, no sugar, annual checks.

The predicate divides in turn (from cool to coolest)

Kabinett

The simplest degree of the predicate. The name Cabinet comes from the 15th century, when the Eberbach monastery arranged a special storage for valuable wines. Different wine varieties, not too high alcohol content. Wines are checked by experts and must score a certain number of points.

Spätlese

This wine is sweeter and more fruity, as it is made from grapes that are harvested a week later than usual. This method was invented by accident: before, grapes could only be harvested with permission, and the mail was delayed. The winemaker from Johannesberg decided to make wine from “expired” grapes, which were previously considered already spoiled. Now the date of the later harvest is set by each region.

Auslese

Also sweet and spicy (usually, but also dry Auslese trocken with high alcohol content) wine made from hand-selected mature berries.

Beerenauslese

Wine made from overripe berries with noble mold. It is rare

Eiswein

A very sweet wine made from concentrated juice, which is squeezed from grapes harvested after the cold has hit (from minus 7) and in this frozen form are sent to the cellars. Unlike previous varieties, there should be no noble mold. It happens not every year, this is the most risky type of winemaking.

Trockenbeerenauslese

A very sweet wine made from almost raisins. Rarity

German wine classification by taste

The classification is the same for the EU and reflects the amount of residual sugar in wine (the one that did not have time to turn into alcohol, since the process was interrupted). The classification refers to common wines, champagnes have a wider scale.

Trocken – dry (9 g sugar per liter, 2 g acid)

Halbtrocken – semi-dry (9-18 g sugar, 10 g acid)

Feinherb – between semi-dry and Lieblich. The Moselle winemakers had to defend the name in court. In the end, the court decided that such a name does not promise anything to the user, so let it be.

Lieblich – semi-sweet (18-45 g sugar)

Suß – sweet (more than 45 g per liter)

And more about the taste: Barrique will mean that the wine is made in 225-liter barrels. The classic version is oak barrels burnt from the inside, but other woods are also used. Barrique differs from Holzfass in its traditional size – 225 l (45 kg), which could be lifted by a loader in port alone.

In order from most planted, percentages are rounded

Riesling 23%

Müller-Thurgau (light table white wine with muscat aroma) 11,5%

Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir – the main red sort in Germany, still inferior in quality to the French Burgundy, but in the last decade has been constantly improving) 11,5%

Dornfelder (new German red wine, very intense) 7%

Grauburgunder (Pinot gris) 7%

Weißburgunder (Pinot blanc) 5,5%

Silvaner (light table white wine, which used to be extremely popular) 4,5%

Portugieser (light fruity summer red wine) 2,5%

Kerner (a new German sort, a mixture of Trollinger and Riesling, fresher and spicier than Riesling) 2%

Chardonnay 2%

Trollinger (light fresh red wine, made in Württemberg, comes from Tyrol – i.e. originally Tirolinger) 2%

Lemberger (late red grapes, in Germany practically only in Württemberg, more sour intense wine of higher quality) 2%

Schwarzriesling (old mutation pinot noir) 2%

Regent (red wine is very intense, almost black in color, reminiscent of merlot) 1,5%

Bacchus (light summer white wine) 1,5%

Savignon Blanc 1,5%

Scheurebe (a new white wine from the Palatinate, derived from Silvaner, gives a good predicate in the form of Beerenauslese) 1,5%

Gutedel (one of the oldest wines in the world, presumably from Egypt, made from table white grapes, drunk mainly as young wine, in Germany it is grown only around Freiburg) 1%

Gewürztramiener (spicy and fruity wine typical of Tyrol) 1%

German wine regions

There are 13 protected wine regions in Germany, their distribution almost exactly coincides with the spread of the Roman Empire in the western part of Germany. In the Bavarian part of the Roman Empire, either the relief is not the same, or beer has supplanted everything else. In Bavaria, only Main (Franken) belongs to wine region.

These sorts are predominant in these regions.

Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, north down. The list of the top 100 wines includes wines from these regions (mainly Moselle, Rheingau, Nahe and mainly Riesling)

Ahr. Ahr is the tributary of the Rhine, the one affected by the flood. Spätburgunder are mainly produced here. 86% Qualitätswein

Mittelrhein – upstream and downstream of the Rhine from Koblenz. Mostly Riesling and a little more Qualitätswein (62%)

Mosel – along the Moselle. Mostly Riesling and a little Müller-Thurgau. More Qualitätswein (75%)

Nahe – around the Nahe – tributary of the Rhine, which flows into the Rhine at Bingen, where four wine regions converge at one point (also Rheingau, Rhine-Hesse and Middle Rhine). Mostly Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and a little Dornfelder. Mostly Qualitätswein (70%)

Rheingau – circle of the extremely popular Rüdesheim. Riesling and Spätburgunder. Half predicate and qualität

Hessische Bergstraße – a small region from Mannheim towards Frankfurt on right side of Rhine. They mainly produce Riesling, as well as Spätburgunder, Grauburgunder. A little more Qualitätswein (60%)

Rheinhessen – south of Mainz to Mannheim, Germany’s largest wine region. Despite the name, it is entirely located in Rhineland-Palatinate. Do Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Dornfelder, Portugieser, Kerner. More Qualitätswein (68%)

Pfalz – continuation of the Rhine-Hesse region further south. The well-known Wine Route (Weinstraße). Produced by Riesling, Dornfelder, Grauburgunder. As well as Gewürztramiener, Portugieser, Spätburgunder, Grauburgunder, Chardonnay and Kerner. 80% Qualitätswein

Bavaria

Franken. Along the Main from Aschaffenburg to Bamberg. Mainly white wine is grown – Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau, Bacchus. 70% Prädikatswein

Baden-Württemberg. Regions are simply divided along the line of the kingdoms of Baden and Württemberg

Baden. Along the Rhine around Freiburg and further along the old border of Baden as a state. This region is very heterogeneous in quality – around Kaiserstuhl excellent wine, and in the northern part it is rather good, but average. They make the most of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir, third), besides Müller-Thurgau, Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc). Predicate and quality in the same ratio.

Württemberg – Along Neckar from Stuttgart. Main sorts: Riesling, Lemberger, Trollinger, Schwarzriesling, Spätburgunder. 72% Qualitätswein

Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt

Saale-Unstrut, Sachsen – two Saxon regions (they make me wonder: What, is it possible there too?). White burgundy, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau are grown. Predominantly Qualitätswein in Saale-Unstrut (78%) and half in Sachsen

German wine classification VDP – location classification

VDP is a predicate winemaking society that has existed since 1910 and unites about 200 German winemakers. The society’s winemakers’ bottles can be distinguished by the image of an eagle. The VDP classification of wines is the internal classification of this society.

The idea of classification is based on the location of the vineyard, soil. Classification of locations uses old classifications, for example from Prussia. The more accurate the localization, the better the quality is expected.

In addition, production is in line with the eco-trend – the grapes in these wineries are grown in accordance with environmental requirements (eco-fertilizers, etc.). The amount of grapes harvested is limited to improve quality – a quarter less than Qualitätswein on the first two levels and 50-60% on the second two levels.

To become a candidate for membership, one must have the best vineyard location, be known for its quality in the domestic and international market, follow eco-regulations and have an impeccable appearance.

Thus, the VDP marking guarantees the stable quality of a particular winery, but does not mean that only they have good wine, and also does not mean that from year to year there will always be high-quality wine, and not just average good. Sure choice can be made only knowing specific regions and taking into account the year of production.

VDP categories

Gutswein – is a wine made from a specific winery; grapes from other wineries cannot be added here

Ortswein – stricter territorial limitation, the grapes must be typical for the this region (the typicality is determined by the society)

Erste Lage – grapes harvested from the finest locations that have proven their quality over the years. Ripe berries are harvested by hand. Collection and production is controlled, quality is checked. This category is not used in all regional associations.

Große Lage (in the case of dry wines it is called Großes Gewächs, simply Große Lage may be with residual sugar) – the highest category. The grapes are harvested by hand, additional control is carried out throughout the year. Wine must be stored in a certain way.

There is also a category for champagne – Sekt.Statut

How do these categories compare with the standard German classification? For wines with residual sugar, the legal categories must also be specified. For dry wines, it is assumed that all of these wines are automatically categorized as Qualitätswein trocken, which means they can add sugar.

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