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VDP Adopts Resolution on Wine Classification for Germany

Members agree upon three-stage model at annual meeting.  

Wallhausen/Castell, Germany.....A breakthrough was achieved at the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter, the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates) annual meeting held this summer in Castell/Franken. After nearly a decade of preparation, members passed a resolution on wine classification for Germany, thus reaching a milestone in the association's history ...and a milestone for wine lovers: at long last they can enjoy "grand cru" wines from Germany. The rest of the press release here.  

 

VDP Accord of 2002, Press Release,  Östringen, 19 June 2002

Classification Criteria for Great Growths and First Growths and Wines from a Classified Site

 The VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter, the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates) endeavors to ensure that wines bearing the names of Germany¹s finest vineyard sites are distinguished by a clear profile. Vineyard sites shape the profile of the cultural landscape and the character of first-class wines. As such, the unique nature of a top site cannot be underestimated, for it is inherent to producing individualistic wines that reflect the respective "terroir² of origin as well as the dedication and passion of the wine-grower.  

The VDP Accord of 2002 represents the input of the VDP regional associations, who conscientiously helped define the basic profile of great growth wines without losing sight of varying local conditions. The result is a uniform framework of binding measures for all estates that wish to produce great growth wines. It recognizes that regional differences must be respected in order to produce inimitable wines of the highest quality possible. Within the overall framework, regions and districts are free to stipulate stricter conditions (regarding maximum yields, starting must weights or demarcation of classified sites, for example).

 Classification Categories

 Members’ vineyards (or portions thereof) will be carefully classified by the VDP regional associations in consultation with members whose vineyards have already been classified. This forms the basis of the categories of a "quality pyramid” as follows:

 I. Grosse Gewächse / Erste Gewächse (great growths / Rheingau: first growths)

 II. Klassifizierte Lagenweine (wines from a classified site)

 III. Guts-u und Ortsweine ("house wines” labeled with a proprietary name and/or the name of a village or region)

 I. Grosse Gewächse / Erste Gewächse

 The wines originate from classified, narrowly demarcated top sites that provide optimal growing conditions and whose exceptionally ripe crop consistently yields wines of great substance, as evidenced over a long period of time.

A list of every region¹s demarcated top sites will be maintained by the VDP national association. As new data becomes available, the site lists can be updated accordingly.

 The production of great growths is voluntary.

 The following criteria are binding measures prescribed for great growths produced by members of the VDP.

 1. Grape varieties

 Great growths are produced exclusively from grape varieties that the regional associations have deemed to be traditional.

 2. Yields

In vineyard areas registered for the production of great growths, yields are restricted to 50 hl/ha.

 3. Harvest procedures

Grapes for great growths are harvested selectively, by hand.

 4. Ripeness level

 Grapes for great growths must be at least ripe enough to qualify as Spätlese.

 5. Production procedures

Great growths are produced exclusively according to traditional methods of production.

 6. Inspections / Examinations

Great growths are subject to the general standards prescribed by the VDP national association as well as additional inspections and examinations. Quality-oriented measures are supervised in every vineyard prior to the harvest and vineyards are inspected to monitor yields.

All wines undergo an additional strict, sensorical exam conducted by the VDP.

 7. Marketing

White great growths can be released on the first of September the year after the harvest.

Red great growths can be released on the first of September two years after the harvest.

 8. Packaging

The VDP executive committee is empowered to issue a directive on packaging in order to ensure clarity of labeling and uniform appearance. A special bottle embossed with the "great growth / first growth logo” will be designed for great growths. The special bottles and logo will always be used for great growths. For 0.75-liter bottlings there are four types of bottle: the traditional swan-necked bottle in green or brown glass (also as half bottles); the flagon-shaped Bocksbeutel; and the Burgundy bottle.  All great growth bottlings will bear a similar front label and a capsule depicting the VDP logo ­ the stylized eagle with a cluster of grapes.   The front label must include at least the name of the vineyard site and wine estate. The maximum data permitted on the front label includes vintage, vineyard site, grape variety, wine estate, location and region. All other data required by law are on a separate label.

 9. Style

Great growths are dry in style.

Estates that produce great growths abstain from using "Auslese trocken” to designate wines from the same site and grape variety as their great growths.

Lusciously sweet wines of the Prädikats Auslese and above that are produced according to the same criteria are on a par with great growths but are neither designated or packaged as such at this time.

 II. Klassifizierte Lagenweine

 By 2004 at the latest, vineyard designations on VDP members’ labels will be restricted to classified sites only; no other vineyard names will be used.

The site-specific traits of a vineyard must be clearly recognizable in the wine. Every region¹s list of classified sites will be completed and the introduction of "wines from a classified site² will be effective in all regions by the middle of 2004 at the latest. These measures will be introduced earlier in some regions.

 The following criteria for the production of wines from a classified site, i.e. the use of vineyard designations in general, are binding measures prescribed for all VDP members as of vintage 2004.

 1. Grape varieties

Wines from classified sites are produced from grape varieties determined by the regional associations.

 2. Yields

Yields are restricted to 65 hl/ha for wines from classified sites.

 3. Harvest procedures

Grapes for wines from classified sites are harvested selectively, according to their degree of ripeness.

 4. Ripeness level

Grapes for wines from classified sites must be fully ripened and the ripeness level must be perceptible in the wine.

 5. Inspections / Examinations

The wines are subject to examination during the organoleptic VDP estate inspection to confirm their overall quality and to ensure that they conform with the level of quality expected of wines from classified sites.

 6. Packaging

Wines from classified sites can be recognized by a vineyard designation on the label and a capsule depicting the VDP logo ­ the stylized eagle with a cluster of grapes.

 III. Guts- und Ortsweine

The broad base of the "quality pyramid” comprises the VDP estates` "house wines”. They are produced according to the general standards and stringent quality criteria prescribed by the VDP, but are not marketed with a vineyard designation.

 IV. Concluding Remarks

 All additional definitions will be determined by the regional associations in their respective examination procedures. On the basis of these classification principles, the VDP national association and the regional associations that are in the process of classifying (classification committees), respectively, will screen the applications of other regions that decide to classify their vineyards.  After the introductory phase, it is intended to give all wine-growers a chance to subscribe to the classification criteria, provided that they are willing to adhere to the prescribed measures and, through their work in the vineyard and cellar as well as their bearing, to help improve the image of Germany¹s top-quality wines and to support the underlying goals that classification endeavors to achieve.

Traditional Grape Varieties Permitted for Great Growths as Determined by the Regional Associations

Baden:       Riesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc),      Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris),          Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)

Franken:         Riesling, Silvaner, Weissburgunder, Spätburgunder

Mittelrhein:     Riesling

Nahe:        Riesling

Pfalz:       Riesling, Weissburgunder, Spätburgunder

Rheingau:        Riesling, Spätburgunder

Rheinhessen:     Riesling, Spätburgunder

Saale-Unstrut:   Riesling, Weissburgunder

Württemberg:     Riesling

 



Earlier press release, 2002: 
VDP Adopts Resolution on Wine Classification for Germany

Members agree upon three-stage model at annual meeting.

Wallhausen/Castell, Germany.....A breakthrough was achieved at the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter, the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates) annual meeting held this summer in Castell/Franken. After nearly a decade of preparation, members passed a resolution on wine classification for Germany, thus reaching a milestone in the association's history ...and a milestone for wine lovers: at long last they can enjoy "grand cru" wines from Germany. The rest of the press release here.

At a press conference following the meeting, assocation president Michael Prinz zu Salm-Salm expressed his satisfaction with the outcome: "After ten years of carefully laying the groundwork and intensely comparing notes on the various classification models proposed in the different regions, the resolution at hand truly represents a historical breakthrough. It enables Germany's top-quality wine producers to reposition their products on the international wine market, and to finally do so on an equal footing with the "grand crus" of other wine-growing countries. The resolution was also important because Germany is unique among the wine-growing countries of the world in that the entire area permitted for viticulture potentially qualifies as being suitable for the production of Qualitätswein. Furthermore, the difference between collective and individual sites is confusing. Our proposal offers consumers greater clarity in the future. When they see a wine bearing the VDP capsule and the name of a vineyard site (wines from classified sites), they can be certain that it is a premium wine that clearly reflects its origin. The designations "Erstes Gewächs" (first growth), "Grosses Gewächs" (great growth) or "Erste Lage" (top site) will be used to identify super-premium wines ("grand cru" wines)."

For the most part, members were in agreement about the additional measures that were passed.

¥      With regard to the implementation of new oenological procedures, such as concentration, the members voted to abstain from its general use, although methods of concentration probably will be legalized in the future.
The new techniques are in an experimental stage. Members who are interested in trying out such procedures will do so only after informing the VDP national association, and agree to carry out their trials under the supervision of a working committee to be named by the national association.

¥      As to the question of cultivating genetically altered grape varieties, the delegates unanimously support a ten-year moratorium. For this purpose, the VDP has joined the French-European initiative "Terre et Vins du Monde".

¥      The annual meeting also provided an opportunity for Germany's "wine elite" to take a critical look at the association's name and logo. The members agreed that in public, they will go by the shorter name "VDP. Die Prädikatsweingüter". (VDP. The Prädikat Wine Estates.) in the future. They also decided to modernize their VDP eagle logo by softening the martial look of the eagle. Henceforth the eagle will sport rounded wings, bear a smaller cluster of grapes and look less aggressive overall.

The three-stage classification model.

All wines of VDP members are still subject to the stringent quality criteria that the VDP adopted in 1990.

At the base of the "quality pyramid" are the so-called "Gutsweine" and "Ortsweine", i.e. an estate's "house" wines, labeled simply with a proprietary name and/or broad appellation of origin, such as the name of a village or region.

The second level of the "quality pyramid" consists of "klassifizierten Lagenweine", or wines from classified sites, based on two underlying concepts: 1) After a three-year grace period, at the latest, VDP members will restrict their use of vineyard designations to those sites that impart a distinctive character to their respective wines. Every VDP regional association is obligated, under private law, to determine which sites merit classification status ­ i.e. which sites yield wines that clearly express site-specific traits. Then, and only then, will VDP members market their wines with a vineyard designation on the label; 2) said wines must also meet additional quality criteria regarding maximum yield (65 hl/ha), grape variety (traditional varietals), ripeness level of the grapes at harvest (completely ripe), selective harvesting, and supplementary sensory testing.

The first and highest level of the "quality pyramid" comprises the "grand cru" wines of Germany. In the Rheingau, these are identified as "Erstes Gewächs"; in other regions, VDP members will use the designations "Grosses Gewächs" or "Erste Lage" to denote these super-premium wines. This very exclusive category, which will seldom exceed 5% of an estate's overall production, is subject to even stricter production criteria. Maximum yield is restricted to 50 hl/ha, the choice of grape variety is narrower, and various viticultural measures are controlled, starting with pruning. A fully ripened crop is a matter of course, as is selective harvesting, by hand. A VDP sensorical exam is mandatory, in addition to that required by law for wines designated as "Qualitätswein". In terms of packaging, these wines can be recognized by a combination of the "VDP eagle" with the name of a specific vineyard site.

All levels of the "quality pyramid" are subject to the general standards prescribed by the VDP national association. The regional associations, however, can stipulate stricter conditions.

In conclusion, Prince Salm summarized:
"In recent years, as an association of top-quality producers, we have had to accept the fact that we were not able to effect the changes we deemed necessary to improve the wine law. As such, we have gone our own way and voluntarily opted to: 1) abstain from using collective vineyard site names; 2) limit yields; 3) lay the groundwork, i.e. set minimum standards, for the "grand cru" wines of Germany, now valid nationwide. Our association of top-quality wine estates will continue to voluntarily practice quality-oriented measures in the vineyard and in the cellar to produce wines of distinguished character ­ based on the precept of "quality over quantity"."

Note: Photos from the annual meeting are available from VDP headquarters.

Copies of media mentions are appreciated.

The Three-stage VDP Classification Model 

(translations of texts to the pyramid)

Production criteria for the top level  (top texts left and right)

¥      Origin is restricted to classified sites

¥      Choice of grape variety is restricted

¥      Maximum yield: 50 hl/ha

¥      Viticultural measures are subject to control

¥      Minimum must weight: equivalent to Spätlese

¥      Selective harvesting, by hand

¥      Wines are subject to a VDP sensorical exam

¥      Wines are aged prior to first release

Production criteria for the second level  (text to the left in the middle of the pyramid)

¥      Origin is restricted to vineyards that impart discernible, site-specific traits

¥      Choice of grape variety is determined by the regional associations

¥      Maximum yield: 65 hl/ha

¥      Selective harvesting

¥      Fully ripened crop

General standards of the VDP  (text below pyramid)

¥      80% of an estate's holdings are planted with traditional grape varieties typical of their region, as recommended by the VDP

¥      Maximum yield: 75 hl/ha

¥      Minimum must weight (higher than prescribed by law) is determined by the regional associations

¥      Hand harvesting for grapes of Auslese, and riper, quality levels

¥      Vineyard procedures adhere to measures prescribed for integrated viticulture

¥      Wines are subject to examination during a VDP estate inspection

¥      Estates must meet and maintain VDP inspection criteria (30 points)

 

In general, the VDP national association provides a uniform framework of quality-oriented measures. The regional associations can stipulate stricter conditions.

 

 

Text inside the pyramid from top to bottom:

 

Erstes Gewächs ("first growth")

(Rheingau)

Grosses Gewächs / Erste Lage ("great growth" / top site)

(title for other regions)

Klassifizierter Lagenwein ("wine from a classified site")

Vineyard desginations on VDP members' labels are restricted to top sites only ­ wines from lesser sites bear no vineyard designation. Collective vineyard site names are never used.

Guts- und Ortswein  ("house wine" labeled with a proprietary name and/or the name of a village or region)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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