German Wine Law
This latest attempt to protect quality and simplify regulations came into force in 1971. Unfortunately, as often happens when laws and regulations have to be written down, many problems subsequently arose: there are numerous alterations, modifications and discussions as to the interpretation of the Law. Essentially, the potential customer should know that certain controls are exercised and that the label of any German wine indicates what the bottle contains. Lowest of all, there is Tafelwein, which can be a blend of wines from other EEC countries with some from Germany; then there is Deutscher Tafelwein, which must be wine from Germany only, and from one of five authorised regions: Mosel, Rhein, Main, Neckar and Oberrhein. Above these two lowest categories, each bottle will bear what is called the A.P. Number. The initials stand for Amtliche Priifingsnummer, signifying that the wine has passed both laboratory and tasting tests, in which it must achieve its category’s minimum mark to qualify.
Above the category of Deutscher Tafelwein, comes the category Qualitatswein bestimmer Anbaugebiete, a term usually shortened to ‘QbA’. These wines have also to satisfy various tests, must be typical of their region and grape and, if they bear any site or vineyard name, at least 75% of the wine in the bottle must actually be from that site. The 11 wine regions are: Ahr, Baden, Franconia, Hessische Bergstrasse, Mittelrhein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Nahe, Rheingau. Rheinhessen, Rheinpfalz (Palatinate) and Wurttemberg (see Rhine). Liebfraumilch comes into this category. Wines above the tafelwein and Ob A wines cannot be sugared in any way and the use of the term Natur, sometimes formerly seen, is no longer permitted.
The top quality wines are in the category Qualitatswein mil Prddikat, or ‘QmP’. According to the region from which the wine comes, it must achieve the requisite qualities, the right level of sugar in the must, and the right level of alcohol. The first section in this category is that of Kabinett, a term that implies something special, set apart. Then there are the spatlese or late harvested wines; then the auslese wines, made from bunchesof grapes specially selected for ripeness among those that are late picked. The beerenauslesen and trockenbeerenauslesen wines are late picked, and made from individually selected grapes, not just bunches. The last category is made from grapes left to dry (trocken is German for ‘dry’) on the vine so that the small amount of juice each grape contains is of concentrated sweetness. An eiswein is a wine made from grapes actually frozen when put into the press – it usually is made in a year that may otherwise have not been remarkable but when some grapes are left on the vines until the winter frosts; some wine of this type is even occasionally made in January following the vintage.