Rebels. Vines. Rarities.

The History of the VDP

The VDP.Eagle is an established trademark for outstanding wines – for over 100 years:

The “VDP.Adler” eagle is an established trademark for outstanding wines — and has been for over 100 years.
The VDP already carries the gene for the highest wine quality in its very DNA. Its original founders were passionate and driven when it came to the purity and quality of German wines. In 1910 our first association members were already known for producing wines of world renown when they founded the VDP predecessor VDNV (Verband deutscher Naturweinversteigerer e. V.). Their wines — at that time sold in wooden fuder barrels at auctions — were a must for wine dealers and top restaurants of the time. Demand was high, but not higher than the demands that those winegrowers put on their own wines. Later history was not kind to German winemaking — two world wars and increasing quality dilution by other enterprises weighed heavily on the reputation of the German wine, particularly abroad. The Wine Law of 1971 served as the initial spark for the VDP’s own classification system (click here for more on the history of the classification), which has existed in its current form since 2012. Today's classification of vineyard quality is based, among other things, on historical maps of German winegrowing.
You can read the eventful history of our association in our timeline or here in this comprehensive pdf. You can also find out how our symbol, the VDP.Adler or “grape eagle,” was born and became a symbol for world-class wine. Here you can find the book "The Sign of the Grape and Eagle" by the FAZ journalist and wine historian Dr. Daniel Deckers.

Historical site maps

Historical site maps from Tranchot und Müffling

The maps of Tranchot and Müffling: unique evidence of German vineyard quality

Even in Napoleonic times, German vineyard sites were regarded as precision sites of origin for unique wines. This is documented not only by historical menus from this period but also by the detailed site maps of the Rhineland, Saar and Mosel, which were begun by Jean Joseph Tranchot on Napoleon's order in 1803 and completed by Karl Freiherr von Müffling from 1816 onwards. If one superimposes the maps from that time onto today's maps of the VDP.GROSSE LAGE® and VDP.ERSTE LAGE® sites, the overlaps become immediately clear. But this was only the beginning of the historical cartography of the German winegrowing region. Embark on a journey through time and find out for yourself which historical maps the VDP classifications draw on.



With the peace of Lunéville in 1802, the Rhine finally became the border between "la France" and Germany. French engineer-geographers immediately set out to survey the conquered territories and to record the landscape of the four new réunis départements on hand-painted map sheets. The officers, led by Colonel Jean-Joseph Tranchot, worked thoroughly - so thoroughly that by 1814 they had by no means got as far as Napoleon had demanded. After the end of the liberation wars and the founding of the Prussian Rhine Province, the remaining territories were mapped under the leadership of Karl von Müffling, who later became Field Marshal General. The new Prussian province of Westphalia was immediately included. The public could not see the first modern topographic "Landesaufnahme" on a scale of 1:20 000. The maps served military purposes and were therefore only accessible to the Prussian General Staff. They remained in the Prussian General Staff's map collection for almost one hundred years before they were incorporated into the 1920s map department of the present Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Even today, the Tranchot-Müffling cards are not only praised for their beauty. They are an irreplaceable and important source for the natural structure, the road network, the settlement structure and also the land use. Thus the map series also shows the extent of the vineyards 200 years ago - and the French-Prussian Landesaufnahme is the oldest topographic map series in the world that also takes wine culture into account. And this on the Rhine, the Ahr, the Moselle and the Nahe, even in the Rheingau region of Nassau since 1815.

Today the originals of the famous Tranchot-Müffling cards are kept in the Staatsbibliothek Unter den Linden in Berlin (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz).
Via the VDP you have the unique opportunity to order these cards as printouts in the size 50 x 46 cm. The price is 19,50 Euro.

Prussian first recordings

The French had shown the way, the Prussians proved themselves to be teachable pupils: the maps of the so-called first photograph, which the Royal Prussian General Staff had made since the 1820s, also showed on a scale of 1: 25,000 the various forms of land use and thus also the extent of the vineyards: "The border is black or purple, depending on whether it is made of wood or stone. The interior is pale with pure rubber goods. - Vines are only extensively drawn in on a large scale in fair drawings", were the specifications of the sample sheet from 1818. Again, the surveying and mapping work dragged on - and for so long that contour lines were also drawn in the maps that had been produced since 1846. Thus the Prussian original measuring table sheets show a true to scale picture of the vineyards in the early 19th century from the Saar to Lower Silesia.

Bavarian original position sheets

What the Prussians could do, the officials and officers in Bavaria also had to be able to do: In the "Military Topographical Bureau" of the young kingdom, the original photographs of the Royal Bavarian Tax Cadastre Commission (Königlich-Bayerische Steuerkatasterkommission) on a scale of 1:50000 became the basis for the position sheets on a scale of 1:25 000 since 1817. By 1841, a total of 981 hand-drawn map sheets had been produced, 87 of them for the then Bavarian Rhine District (from 1837 Pfalz). Thus the extent of viticulture in the years after the Congress of Vienna and the Revolution of 1848 can be determined not only for the Prussian wine-growing regions on the basis of true-to-scale maps, but also for Franconia and today's Palatinate. However, the vineyard areas in the Bavarian position sheets can only be identified with difficulty. Coloured in pale pink, they hardly stand out from their surroundings.

Vineyard card Rheingau 1867

At the Paris World Exhibition of 1867, the Rheingau, which had just been Nassau and was now Prussian, was to be honoured not only with fine wines. Under the leadership of Friedlich Wilhelm Dünkelberg, the secretary of the Nassauischer Land- und Forstwirte association, a new map and a book on "Viticulture in the Nassau Rheingau" were produced to celebrate the fame of Rheingau wines. The map divided the vineyard sites of the Rheingau into several classes, which were distinguished from each other by colour and immediately made the better and best vineyard sites stand out. In classifying the vineyards, Dünkelberg used the results of the wine auctions, documented since the 1820s, of the large and well-funded estates as a basis. Visitors to the World Exposition did not get to see the map. The event came to an end before the map and book were ready for printing at the end of 1867.

Vineyard card Saar-Mosel (Trier) 1868

The man to whom German viticulture owes the "Saar-Mosel vineyard map for the Trier administrative district" was by no means a Moselle, not even a Rhinelander, let alone a Catholic. But Johann Otto Ferdinand Beck, born 1818 in Schwedt an der Oder, had - like a Trier of the same age named Karl Marx - an eye for the plight of the Prussian subjects in Eifel and Hunsrück. Situated in the far west of the empire, the Trier region struggled with cholera, economic hopelessness and emigration. On 30 November 1869 the time had come: "The map was produced with the greatest expertise and precision by Mr Steuerrath Klotten on a scale of 1:50,000 ... and illustrates the results of the land tax regulation in three colours. All the more well-known positions (sic) are marked by name and various elevations are given." The "Königliche Regierungs- und Departhementsrath für die Landeskultur und Statistik" did not leave it at a map. In a "Description of viticulture on the Moselle and Saar" several experts besides Beck himself had their say. While the book was not printed again, the map, initially printed in five hundred copies, experienced several updated new editions since 1890.

Vineyard card Rheingau 1885

Almost twenty years after the "Weinbaukarte für den Nassauischen Rheingau" a second map for the wine-growing area between Hochheim and Rüdesheim was published. Even more: In an accompanying book the individual wine-growing locations were described in detail and an explanation was given how the location classification came about. The man who took this trouble was Heinrich Wilhelm Dahlen, a native of the Rheingau region, Secretary General of the German Winegrowers' Association. When differentiating according to value classes, Dahlen no longer used the average auction proceeds as a basis like Dünkelberg (Map 4), but rather the net yield as Beck did in 1868 (Map 5). In terms of scale, too, Dahlen does not follow Dünkelberg, but chooses the "Prussian" scale of 1: 50,000 - at all: the existence of the map for the Nassau Rheingau from 1867 was not revealed by Dahlen.

Vineyard card Mosel (Koblenz) 1898

While the initiative for the production of the Saar-Mosel vineyard map had been taken by the Prussian district government, in the case of a vineyard map for the lower reaches of the Moselle, the publisher and bookseller Jakob Lintz from Trier, Trier, recognized the hour's favour: in 1895 he turned to the district president in Koblenz and suggested that a map be produced in the interest of all wine-growing circles, as it had existed for 30 years for the Middle Moselle, Ruwer and Saar. The district president did not hesitate to support the project, but in the meantime Mosel wine was on everyone's lips as a fashion wine. In addition to the correspondence between Trier and Koblenz, the holdings of the Landeshauptarchiv Koblenz also include the documents on the collection of property tax as well as the hand-drawn models from the land registry offices.

Vineyard card Nahe 1900

In the year 1900 it was also so far in the southernmost wine-growing area of Rheinpreußens: According to the two Mosel vineyard maps the "Nahe-Weinbau map for the administrative district Koblenz" appeared in Bad Kreuznach. However, only the vineyards located in Prussia, which extended from the mouth of the Nahe into the Rhine near Bingerbrück to the Kirn area, were differentiated according to value classes and represented in different colours. Vineyards on the territory of the Grand Duchy of Rheinhessen as well as in the (Bavarian) Northern Palatinate were represented according to area, but only partially highlighted with layer names. In 1901 the map experienced a second edition under the title "Weinbau-Karte des Nahegebietes". Many vineyards have disappeared in the vicinity of the cities in recent decades. Elsewhere, vineyards have been added, for example in the course of the foundation and expansion of the Prussian wine-growing domain Niederhausen since 1902.

Vineyard card Rhine 1902

The fact that two vineyard maps had been drawn up for the Moselle region, but that there was nothing of the kind for the Middle Rhine Valley, which also belonged to the administrative district of Koblenz, did not put the winegrowers and wine merchants to rest. At the end of 1898, they asked the district president to also honour the Middle Rhine Valley with a wine list. After more than two years of preparation, the "Rhein-Weinbau-Karte für die Strecke Bingerbrück/Rüdesheim-Koblenz" including the Lahn Valley was published in 1902. In order to be able to show the vineyards of the upper Rheingau including the town of Rüdesheim, the three-step colour scheme had to be supplemented by a fourth colour: The controllable net yield of the vineyards in the Rheingau was so high that they stand out in carmine red.

Vineyard card Rhine 1904

The completion of the vineyard map project for the Prussian Rhine Province is the "Rhein-Weinbau-Karte" (Rhine-vineyard map), published in 1904, for the Koblenz-Bonn route including the Ahrthales. Like all other maps of the recent series, it was produced under the responsibility of the Royal Government of Koblenz "using official material".  Much of it, above all the drawings from the land registry offices, have been preserved in the Koblenz State Archives. The map shows the extent of the vineyards on the lower Middle Rhine and on the Ahr a hundred years after the first survey by the French engineer and geographer Jean Joseph Tranchot. Where once there were only roads, there are now railway lines, where once English tourists were captivated by the Rhine Romanticism, now life pulsates. The vineyards have remained - some to this day.


Albert von Bruchhausen
1910 - 1934

Jakob Werner
1934 - 1949


Dr. Albert Bürklin
1949 - 1969

Wolfgang Michel
1969 - 1972

Peter W. von Weymarn
1972 - 1978

Erwein Graf Matuschka-Greiffenclau 
1978 - 1990

Michael Prinz zu Salm-Salm
1990 - 2007

Steffen Christmann 
seit 2007

How wine got to the eagle


The Brandenburg eagle appeared in blood red, the Prussian one in black, the Habsburg heraldic animal was even a double eagle. The breast of the awe-inspiring heraldic birds adorned many a thing over the centuries, but no grapes. Until the year 1925. In Koblenz the first (and last) Reichsausstellung German wine was aligned, nevertheless, the Rhineland belonged to Germany for exactly thousand years (if they were not occupied once again by France, as since 1918 ...). A Cologne poet and graphic artist named Franz-Josef Lichtenberg sensed a good deal. The Prussian eagle, alienated from expressionism, had a fat grape painted in front of his chest - including a pompous consecration saying, the whole thing printed as a large wall sheet in a limited edition and as a postcard for six marks per hundred pieces: the grape eagle was born.

Whether Lichtenberg acted on his own initiative or on behalf of others is just as little known as the answer to the question of whether he got his money's worth. It is also a mystery why the Trier graphic artist Fritz Quandt set about taking the allegedly orphaned grape eagle under his wing in the winter of 1925/26 and placing it in the service of the Association of German Natural Wine Auctioneers (VDNV), founded in 1910. Perhaps the chairman of the VDNV, Trier's Lord Mayor Albert von Bruchhausen, had his fingers in the pie at the rebirth of the grape eagle? Be that as it may, the stricter one of the two designs, which have been preserved in the Trier City Museum, found favour. On 10 March 1926, Bruchhausen was able to send a letter to the approximately two hundred natural wine auctioneers in the meanwhile six regional associations with the happy news that the Reich Patent Office had confirmed the receipt of the application for the new association logo in the sign role.

It is impossible to reconstruct how many winery owners responded to the request to print the association mark on letter paper, corks or labels to certify that they belonged to the circle of natural wine auctioneers. Apparently there were not too many of them. A label or a bottle capsule with the grape eagle and the inscription VDNV is in any case not handed down. However, the heraldic animal found a place in the artistically designed seals of the regional associations of the VDNV from the Rheingau via the Nahe, Pfalz and Rheinhessen to Baden and the Moselle and Saar rivers. And that is not all. In October 1929, the VDNV's "Propaganda Committee" called on three well-known artists to design a "uniform bottle sign" (label). The Berlin art graphic artist and book illustrator Professor Ernst Böhm (1890-1863) was awarded the contract. "Our members have layers of world renown," could be read in the left column. And: "This symbol in combination with cork brandy guarantees pure natural wine". The grape eagle was meant. The decision to introduce a common "bottle sign" was taken at the meeting of the VDNV Association Committee on 26 September 1930.

Like so many "innovations" in viticulture, the standard label was a child not of abundance, but of necessity. As a result of several crop failures in succession and the global economic crisis, the need in German viticulture was greater than ever. The new label aroused high expectations: "The purpose of the common bottle label is to draw the attention of the wine drinker to the winery and the association more than before. With naturalization it will be also possible that on wine lists and price lists beside the name of the producer the indication takes place: Association of German natural wine auctioneers". But all desires did not help anything. The situation did not improve.

How many wineries made use of the new label was also not recorded by anyone. Was it more than a handful, perhaps more than a few dozen? The members of the VDNV pulled together rather rarely at that time as well. The Prussian domains on the Rhine, the Nahe, the Ahr as well as on the Moselle and Saar were out of the question for political reasons, as was the Grand-Ducal-Hessian wine-growing domain in Mainz: the "bottle equipment" was a matter for the authorities, not an association or even a taste. Many renowned estate owners, on the other hand, whose wines were on everyone's lips long before the VDNV was founded, left it to their sometimes artistically designed labels: This applied to Friedrich von Bassermann-Jordan as well as to Prince Metternich, the owner of Johannisberg Castle. However, two other model companies in the Rheingau region saw the time as ripe for an additional emphasis on corporate identity: Schloss Vollrads owned by Richard Graf Matuschka-Greiffenclau, and hardly any less tradition-rich winery of Graf Eltz in Eltville. The new bottle label also seemed to have met with interest in some places on the Moselle and Saar rivers - and only there has it been used uninterruptedly since the years before the Second World War until today, above all in the J.J. Prüm winery.

For almost all other members of the VDNV, the uniform bottle label with the distinctive grape eagle in the middle of the left column was history at the latest with the entry into force of the wine law of 1969/71. Not only the term "natural wine" was no longer permitted. Even the idea that the character of a wine should be essentially determined by its origin had lost its appeal in times of belief in the possibility of controlling entire societies and economies.

The grape eagle also survived this crisis - together with the VDNV. But wait, the name of the association was no longer admissible either. Where no pure natural wines, there also no association of German natural wine auctioneers, quite apart from the fact that the auction had largely lost importance as a marketing form. So what to do with a battered association and its weird heraldic animal? In 1971 the VDNV became the VDPV. Natural wine" had become "Prädikatswein". One year later, the association changed its name to "Verband der Prädikatsweingüter". It is still called VDP today.

1990 it went also to the eagle to the collar and/or to the chest. With 10 instead of 13 grapes it was a bit easier to fly. Later, ten became six. But the eagle still looked from the observer to the left, into the past. Today, the grape eagle looks resolutely into the future:

All you had to do was twist the animal's neck around. The heraldic animal hardly appears on the label anymore. Instead, the grape eagle shines on the bottle capsules in so many colours that the Brandenburgers, Prussians and Habsburgs never dreamed of. So it is with the wines from the cellars of the approximately two hundred member enterprises of the VDP.

The current eagle with the year of foundation and six grapes looks to the right.