German wine labels are complex but highly informative - they provide more information as standard than those of any other nation. A single label may indicate (among other things) the producer's name and location, the wine's sweetness, its grape variety, how ripe the grapes were when harvested, the name of the village and vineyard the grapes came from, and whether the wine was bottled at the winery or by a third party.
Below is an example label, and below that an overview of German wine classification and terminology. For comprehensive information about the German regions and their wines, see?Germany.
The four official tiers of German wine quality:
In addition to their official quality classification, German wine labels often indicate how dry or sweet the wine is, according to its?residual sugar?content. The most common terms are?trocken?(dry - up to 9g/l) and?halbtrocken?(medium-dry - up to 18g/l). The unofficial term?Feinherb?is also sometimes used for 'off-dry'. These terms indicate how sweet the wine tastes, and are distinct from the Pr?dikats (e.g. Kabinett, Sp?tlese), which indicate the grapes' ripeness levels (must weight) at harvest.
The VDP (The Association of German Quality and Pr?dikat Wine Estates) is an association of about 200 top German wineries. Membership is voluntary, but requires adherence to strict standards well above those required by German wine law.
Since 1910, the VDP and its black eagle logo have remained an important (yet unofficial) symbol of German wine quality. The association has created its own wine quality system, based on the vineyard classification terms?Grosse Lage?and?Erste Lage?(similar to France's?Grand Cru?and?Premier Cru).
Grosse Lage?is used only for Germany's very best vineyard sites - small, carefully demarcated areas with clear site-specific characteristics. Yields on these sites are limited to 50hl/ha.
Grosses Gew?chs?denotes a dry wine from a?Grosse Lage?vineyard. A?Grosses Gew?chs?may be white or red, depending on the vineyard in question.
Erste Lage?is used for 'first class' vineyards with distinctive characteristics, but which rank just behind Grosse Lage in terms of quality. Yields are limited to 60hl/ha.
Many of the terms used also appear on?Austrian wine labels, although their meanings differ subtly between the two countries.