The 1971 German wine law defines four overall quality categories:
- Deutscher Tafelwein, or 'German table wine'
- This is the equivalent to vin de table. It must be produced exclusively from allowed German-grown grape varieties in one of the five Tafelwein regions. Region or subregion must be indicated on the label. The grapes must reach a must weight of 44°Oe on the Oechsle scale (5% potential alcohol) in most regions, with the exception of Baden where 50°Oe (6% potential alcohol) must be reached. The alcohol content of the wine must be at least 8.5% by volume, and concentration or chaptalization can be used to reach this level. They must reach a total acidity of at least 4.5 grams/liter. Tafelwein (without "Deutscher") can be a so-called Euroblend, a table wine made from grapes grown in several European countries.
- Deutscher Landwein, or 'German country wine'
- This is the equivalent to vin de pays, and was introduced with the 1982 harvest. Regulations are similar to those for Deutscher Tafelwein, but must come from one of the 19 Landwein regions, the grapes must reach 0.5% higher potential alcohol, and the wine must be dry (trocken) or off-dry (halbtrocken) in style, i.e. may not be semi-sweet. "Landwein" can also refer to German fruit wines.
- Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA), or quality wine from a specific region.
- These wines must be produced exclusively from allowed varieties in one of the 13 wine-growing regions (Anbaugebiete), and the region must be shown on the label. The grapes must reach a must weight of 51°Oe to 72°Oe depending on region and grape variety. The alcohol content of the wine must be at least 7% by volume, and chaptalization is allowed. QbA range from dry to semi-sweet, and the style is often indicated on the label. There are some special wine types which are considered as special forms of QbA. Some top-level dry wines are officially QbA although they would qualify as Prädikatswein. It should be noted that only Qualitätswein plus the name of the region, rather than the full term Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete is found on the label.
- Prädikatswein, recently (August 1, 2007) renamed from Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) (superior quality wine)
- The top level of the classification system. These prominently display a Prädikat from Kabinett to Trockenbeerenauslese on the label and may not be chaptalized. Prädikatswein range from dry to intensely sweet, but unless it is specifically indicated that the wine is dry or off-dry, these wines always contain a noticeable amount of residual sugar. Prädikatswein must be produced from allowed varieties in one of the 39 subregions (Bereich) of one of the 13 wine-growing regions, although it is the region rather than the subregion which is mandatory information on the label. (Some of the smaller regions, such as Rheingau, consist of only one subregion.) The required must weight is defined by the Prädikat, and the alcohol content of the wine must be at least 7% by volume for Kabinett to Auslese, and 5.5% by volume for Beerenauslese, Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese.
Under the European Union wine quality grouping, Tafelwein and Landwein belong to the group of table wines, while QbA and Prädikatswein belong to the group of quality wines or VQPRD (Vin de qualité produit dans une région déterminée). In 2005, Tafelwein and Landwein only accounted for 3,6% of total production, QbA 49,6% and Prädikatwein (then called QmP) 46,8%. In most European countries, table wines make up a much higher proportion of the total production. While there are many German wines of excellent quality, the difference in comparison to other countries lies more in the national wine law and how it is applied by the growers. A case in point is Liebfraumilch, which foreign wine drinkers often see as the "simplest" German wine, but which is considered to be a special form of QbA and therefore a quality wine.
Read more about this topic: German Wine Classification
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