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  • Writer's pictureV.A.

Reading wine labels - GERMANY

Wine labels are the cover for the wine. They can tell you a whole story or they will just say that there is wine in the bottle. Wine labels can be different depending on the country, region, or even producer from where the wine is coming from.

Words that are usually written on a wine label are (not necessary all at the same time):

- grape variety, - the country of origin,

- quality designation, - the name of the wine,

- name of the winery or the producer, - a vintage year,

- the place where the wine was produced/bottled.

In this post, you will be able to read and learn about some of the most common words that appear on German wine labels and about the basic quality designations.


Quality designations:

Deutscher Prädikatswein - wines made from ripest grapes. Big variations in character can happen in each vintage. Chaptalization is not allowed. The Prädikate are in ascending order of ripeness:

  • Kabinett: light and fresh wines, can range from dry to off-dry. To be consumed young, but the best examples can hold up to 10 years.

  • Spätlese: means late harvest. Wines can be dry (Spätlese trocken) or sweet. Potential to age, up to 15 years or more.

  • Auslese: means selected harvest. Made from sometimes botrytized grapes, with some RS left. Aging is a must, but they would lose sweetness with age.

  • Beerenauslese (BA): means berry select harvest. Wines are made from raisinated noble rot grapes. Rare and sweet wines.

  • Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): means dry berry select harvest. Wines made from hand-picked grapes that are fully affected by botrytis and dried out on the vine. Very sweet wines.

  • Eiswein: or ice wine. Made from grapes that are left to be frozen on the vines. Concentrated and very sweet wines.

VDP - Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter. It is a German independent association of wine estates that classify vineyards ~200 of them.

Vdp. Gutswein = House wine: it's labeled with a proprietary village or regional name.

Vdp. Ortswein = Local village wine: wines from high-quality vineyards within a village area labeled with the single vineyard names.

Vdp. Erste Lage = First site: vineyards designated first-class with stricter growing standards. Wines are certified by a tasting panel.

Vdp. Grosses Gewächs/ Vdp. Grosse Lage = Great site/ Great growth: classification for top-quality dry wines, from a top specific site. Officially they are classified as Qualitätswein trocken (no predicate). All wines must be tasted by a tasting panel, before being classified.

Deutscher Qualitätswein: translated to German quality wine, originating from a designated wine region. This level is below Prädikatswein, here chaptalization is allowed.

Classic: dry wines (with up to 15g/l RS), made from a single grape variety.

Landwein: equal to Vin de Pays/IGP. It is used for unconventional wines, some exceptional wines from Baden.

Deutscher Wein: small category for basic wines.

Deutscher Sekt: Sparkling wine 100% from German grapes.

Words that appear on German wine labels:

  • Trocken - dry (up to 9g/l RS)

  • Trocken/Selection - wines from Rheingau from hand-harvested grapes.

  • Feinherb - half-dry wines with more RS than halbtrocken wines

  • Halbtrocken - half-dry (up to 18g/l RS)

  • Leibliche - sweet wine with up to 45g/L RS

  • Süss - sweet wine with more than 45g/L RS

  • Anbaugebiete - 13 protected designated wine regions

  • Bereich - subregion within Anbaugebiete

  • Grosselage - a group of vineyards

  • Alte Reben - old vines

  • Amtliche Prüfungsnummer (AP Nr) - every wine is tested and gets its test number. The first digit signifies the test station and the last two digits are the year of the test

  • Erzeugerabfüllung or Gutsabfüllung - estate bottled

  • Weingut - a wine estate /winery

  • Einzellage - single vineyard

  • Schloss - castle or château

  • Weinkellerei - wine company or large bottling operations

  • Winzergenossenschaft/Winzerverein - wine-growers' co-operative

  • Winzersekt - sparkling wines made by the traditional method, they are high-quality, from a single vineyard and estate grown

  • Perlwein - semi-sparkling carbonated wines

  • Rotling - rosé wine made by blending red and white wine

  • Rotwein - red wine

  • Liebfraumilch - a cheap, sweet wine

  • Fruhburgunder: wine from Pinot Noir from the Arh

  • Common vineyard names: Würzgarten (spice hill), Sonnenuhr (sun dial), Rosenberg (rose hill), Honigberg (honey hill).

As you can see, German wine labels can be simple or very complicated. Hope the words above will help you understand them better.

Label 1: Georg Breuer (producer), Rüdesheim (town), Berg Schlossberg (the vineyard).

Label 2: Weingut Wöhrwag (estate), Spätburgunder trocken (dry Pinot Noir), Untertükheimer Herzogenberg (vineyard name), Württemberg (region known for red wine).

Label 3: Prälat (vineyard name), 8% (wine with residual sugar), Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (region), Dr. Loosen (grower).

Label 4: Joh. Jos. Prüm (producer), Wehlener Sonnenhur (vineyard).

Label 5: Geil (producer), Rieslaner (grape variety).

Label 6: Koehler Ruprecht (producer).

Label 7: Selbach Oster (producer), Zeltinger Schlossberg (vineyard).

Label 8: Schloss Johannisberg (producer).


As always have a WINEderful day! :)

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