The VDP developed an in-house vineyard classification in response to unfortunate consequences of the 1971 German wine law. Among other things, the law made it very difficult to identify which wines truly offer exceptional quality. Other deficiencies included:
1. Vineyard site names lost their significance
The 1971 wine law enabled quality wines to be produced from any vineyard site within the German wine-growing regions. Thousands of vineyards were consolidated and often named after the best-known site within the borders of the newly created site – regardless of the varying quality of the parcels with a site. This marked the advent of Grosslagen (collective vineyard sites) that often included the vineyards of many wine villages. Unfortunately, there is no indication on the label as to whether a wine originates from a collective or an individual site.
2. Traditional terms associated with wine quality lost their significance.
The overall volume of Prädikat wines on the market was greatly inflated because qualification for a Prädikat depended primarily on the must weight of the grape juice.
3. There was no correlation between a quality category and style (taste profile).
New methods of cellar technology (e.g., the use of sweet reserve) enabled winemakers to produce wines with residual sweetness at will, whereby this style was formerly achieved naturally. For quite a period of time, it was difficult to find high-quality dry wines on the market. Traditional terms, such as Spätlese, came to denote a number of styles, ranging from dry to sweet.
Since 1984, members of the VDP have developed an internal system of vineyard classification in an attempt to remedy some of the unfortunate consequences of the wine law of 1971. Since 2001, the VDP has refined its in-house classification step by step, taking into consideration recommendations and comments made by customers as well as members of the trade and press. Naturally, the undesirable developments of three decades could not be rectified in one step. In the meantime, there has been much discussion and debate about the ongoing evolution of the VDP classification.
At an extraordinary general meeting in January 2012 in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse/Pfalz, VDP members unanimously passed a resolution that fine-tuned their classification system.