German wine reforms a positive change

22nd August, 2014 by Simon Howland

Wine reforms in Germany will benefit the consumer and should see the re-emergence of some spectacular long lost appellations, but will not solve all of the country’s problems.

VDP, a German stamp of quality.

VDP, a German stamp of quality.

A new German regulation is likely to result in the reappearance of some top vineyard names on labels but there are concerns consumers will continue to be confused, according to Michael Schmidt in the Purple Pages.

The federal state of Rheinland-Pfalz has passed a regulation enabling producers to declare the origin of plots within single vineyards as long as they are recorded in the land registry.

This will enable growers to be more specific and more narrowly define a wine’s origin than at any time since the German wine law of 1971 came into force.

The changes also require higher must weight from single vineyard appellations and restrict terraced vineyard sites to the two varieties, Riesling and Spätburgunder.

The legislation covers wines grown in Mosel-Saar, Rheinhessen, Pfalz, Nahe, Ahr and Mitterlrhein.

The famous terraces of the Mosel are covered by the new legislation.

The famous terraces of the Mosel are covered by the new legislation.

The Verband Deutscher Prädikats, the association that includes most of Germany’s top wine producers, has welcomed the new decree but insists there is more to be done for consumers to clarify the differences between Grosslagen (Collective sites) and Einzellagen (Vineyards).

Schmidt cited Piesporter Michelsberg, which incorporates an area under vine, well exceeding the boundaries of Piesport, and Piesporter Goldtröpchen, which refers to one clearly defined site, as an example for potential confusion and argues unless differences such as this are clarified all the good intentions of new laws will not have any tangible impact.

The 1971 legislation was important as it abolished many of the designations, over 30,000 at the time, and included them in larger individual sites thus simplifying things for the consumer.

While generally positive the 1971 legislation also meant that, in certain instances, wines of a lower quality were bundled together with others of a higher quality thus diluting the quality and reputation of the latter and some excellent plots disappeared into lesser groupings.

Schmidt believes the new legislation will see the resurrection of some of these “fine and famous” appellations that were no longer permitted after 1971.

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