German Wine Label
The key to purchasing the right German wine for you is understanding the wine label. The label provides a wealth of information about the wine - from the vintage, winery, region to the quality category, grape type, and taste. Each aspect of the wine label is defined below using a sample (ficticious) wine label.
|Sample Wine Label (Ficticious)
Winery / Estate
The name of the winery or estate (Weingut).
The year in which the grapes were harvested. This is an optional declaration on the label. If identified, at least 85% of the wine must originate from that vintage.
The grape used to produce the wine. This is an optional declaration on the label. If identified, at least 85% of the wine must originate from the specified grape.
Grape Ripeness Level
Indicates the ripeness of the grapes at harvest. This identification applies only to wines labeled as Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (See Item 10 below). The ripeness categories are:
The taste of the wine. This is an optional declaration on the label. If the style is not indicated, the wine may have some residual sweetness. The following styles are identified:
The city and name of the vineyard in which the grapes were grown. In our example, "Piesporter Goldtröpfchen" indicates the Goldtröpfchen vineyard in the town of Piesport.
The growing region from which the wine originates. 100% of the wine must originate from the specified region. Germany has 13 wine regions:
Wines bottled and produced by the grower are labeled Erzeugerabfüllung. Estates can use Gutsabfüllung on their label. If bottling is done by a different business than the grower, the label shows Abfüller.
The address where the wine was bottled. If the wine was bottled at the winery, than this address belongs both to the winery and the bottling location.
Quality categories of German wine are determined by the ripeness (sweetness) of the grapes at harvest. The riper the grapes, the sweeter they are and thus the higher amount of natural sugar in their juice. The more sugar in the juice, the greater the amount of natural alcohol in the wine. It is the natural alcohol level in the wine, prior to fermentation and prior to performing cellar techniques, that determines the wine's quality category.
Government Approval Number (AP)
This is a quality control number, which indicates that the wine passed several tests required of all quality German wines. The AP number contains the following information. The first digit identifies the town in which the wine was tested. The next 3 digits identify the location of the estate/winery. The third set of numbers are the grower's identification number. The second to last number represents the order in which winery presented its wines to the testing panel. The final 2 numbers identify the year in which the wine was tested.
Liquid Content of the Bottle
Alcohol Content of the Wine
Additional Quality Assurance Logos
The Government Approval Number (See Item 11 above) indicates that the wine meets the qualtiy requirements of the German government. Above and beyond this quality level, wineries can submit their wines to additional wine testing organizations that have even stricter standards. Wines that meet their requirements are allowed to display the organization's "approval logo" on their labels, signifying top quality wines. Two examples of these "approval logos" are:
Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter (VDP)
The Association of German Wine Estates (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und QualitätsweingÃ¼ter or VDP) is made up of about 200 member estates. To become a member, the estates must exceed the legal standards set for all German wines. All equipment, procedures, personnel, and facilities must also meet VDP standards. Additionally, at least 70% of the estate's acreage must be planted with the traditional grape varieties (such as the Riesling). Wines with the VDP logo must be characteristic of their origin and grape variety and the name of the variety must appear on the label.
Monitored by the German Agricultural Association (Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft), a wine goes through a strict test in the following areas. (1) Environmentally friendly vineyard; (2) Highest quality (ripe and healthy) grapes; (3) Meticulous wine production procedures; (4) Optimal storage; (5) Wine taste, aroma, and appearance. Only those wines that meet all the strict requirements are allowed to carry the DLG logo. Currently, only around 190 German wines meet the DLG qualifications.