The VDP.Classification: Situation Report

Majority of German wine trade recognizes significance of vineyard site as basis of quality: “the narrower the appellation of origin, the higher the quality of the wine”

According to a market survey released in January 2014, some 77.8% of the German wine trade is fa-miliar with the VDP designations VDP.GUTSWEIN, VDP.ORTSWEIN, VDP.ERSTE LAGE, and VDP.GROSSE LAGE and 41% feel the VDP.Classification provides useful guidance. Some 86.8% of the trade realizes that “GROSSES GEWÄCHS” is part of the VDP.Classification nomenclature, and 60% were able to define what it means. In addition, 66.3% of those surveyed recognized the VDP logo – a stylized eagle bearing a cluster of grapes – and 42% feel the logo has good recognition value and positive connotations.

In commenting on the results of the survey, VDP president Steffen Christmann says: This survey at-tests to VDP members’ commitment to classifying German appellations of origin during the past 20 years. We’ve achieved remarkable market penetration with the VDP.Classification. Consumers of top-quality wines are famliar with the VDP. We will continue our quest for quality based on the principle that “the narrower the appellation of origin, the higher the quality of the wine.”

Since 2012, when the classification pyramid was realigned into four tiers, VDP member estates have continued to assess the quality potential and demarcation of their very good and very best classified sites, i.e., sites that merit VDP.GROSSE LAGE and/or VDP.ERSTE LAGE status. Decisions on demar-cation issues in vineyards in which several owners have holdings are handled by the respective region-al association. Good progress has been made. Three VDP regional associations (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, the Nahe, and Rheinhessen) have opted to continue using a three-tier classification system to denote their members’ regional wines, village wines, and wines from top sites. There is no differentiation between VDP.GROSSE LAGE and VDP.ERSTE LAGE at the peak of the three-tier pyramid.

In addition, the classification concept is gaining political support. The possibilities of registering vine-yards for status as EU protected designations of origin and using traditional parcel names listed in the vineyard registry have been approved on a national level – a move that helps alleviate some of the unfortunate consequences and inconsistencies of the German wine law of 1971. It revives the names of traditional sites (and/or parcels thereof) whose original demarcations were based on geological, topographical, and microclimatic factors.

On a state level, Rheinland-Pfalz has just adopted a regulation on wine labeling that requires higher quality standards for wines from individual vineyard sites. Politically, this serves as a forerunner in strengthening the image of narrowly defined appellations of origin – although it comes some 20 years after the VDP began its pioneering efforts to achieve the same goal.

VDP.GROSSE GEWÄCHSE make their official market debut on 1 September. For the past ten years, the VDP Prädikat wine estates have invited the wine world’s professional elite to Wiesbaden in late August for a sneak preview of the latest vintage VDP.GROSSE GEWÄCHSE wines – the finest dry wines from VDP.GROSSE LAGEN (great sites). Shortly thereafter, there will be “GG” tastings in Ber-lin (8 September) and Frankfurt (22 September). At this year’s tastings, a preliminary list of every re-gion’s VDP.GROSSE LAGEN will be available for the first time.

In summing up the ongoing course of classification, Steffen Christmann says:
“With every new vintage, the VDP.Classification as well as the correlation between origin and quality become more logical, and for wine enthusiasts, the wine labels are more understandable. Even in their youth, these authentic “terroir” wines are on a par with their international counterparts and number among the great wines of the world.” 

On 1 September 2014, wines in the top echelon of the VDP’s classification pyramid will make their market debut: 502 GROSSE GEWÄCHSE (375 white wines, 127 red wines) from 288 VDP.GROSSE LAGEN (very best vineyard sites) and 164 VDP member estates. The more than 1.03 million bottles of GROSSE GEWÄCHSE from vintage 2013 (red wines from vintages 2010 - 2012) represent ca. three percent of VDP members’ total wine production