May 2013
very focused,” says Cornelius Dönnhoff.
Up-and-coming Hermannsberg says that
90% of its Rieslings are now dry. A third
producer, Jakob Schneider Jr., says, “In
general, I like only about 3-5 residual sugar,
but it depends on the vintage.”
Of course, the story of the expansion
of the German offerings doesn’t end with
dry Rieslings and increasingly hearty Pinot
Noirs. Müller-Thurgau producers continue
to push sales, as do Silvaner and Pinot
Blanc (Weissburgunder) advocates. Anoth-
er red, Dornfelder, is gaining some traction,
and Champagne-style sparkling wine pro-
ducers such as Raumland are rekinding in-
terest in the sparkling wine, or
, market.
Meanwhile, the Wines of Germany
trade group continues promotional efforts
in the United States via its agency, RF
Binder. One of its major events is “31 Days
of Riesling” with retailers, restaurants and
consumers during July. Additionally, there
have been promotions in New York of “The
Three Pinots”—Noir, Gris and Blanc. Trade
and media trips to Germany are also con-
ducted on a regular basis. Every little bit of
effort counts.
Riesling, in multiple styles, remains Germany’s
most acclaimed variety.
Trocken or Not to Trocken...
must have turned around. I know
this because the Germans have
changed their label standards and
I have found they change them every
time I turn around.
The VDP— the quality wine
producers union whose mem-
bers make up the vast majority of
premium German wines sold in the
United States—has instituted several
new regulations for its members.
As of the 2012 harvest, members
of the VDP may only use the terms
Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese on
bottles of off-dry wines. For many
years, producers wanting to highlight
the natural ripeness of their wines
would use these terms in combina-
tion with the German word for dry,
“trocken,” on labels of dry wines that
had achieved higher levels of alcohol
without the benefit of chaptalization.
Meanwhile, in other German wine
label news, the vineyard designa-
tion scheme of the VDP has also
taken another evolution. Wines from
officially-recognized top vineyards
may be labeled Grosses Gewächs
if dry and Grosse Lage if off-dry
or sweet. Just below this level are
wines entitled to be labeled Erste
Lage, a classification equivalent to
a Premier Cru from Burgundy, the
appellation scheme that the Ger-
mans have taken as a model.
These may be labled Trocken if
dry or Kabinett, Spätlese, etc.
if sweet.
Raimund Prüm of SA
Prüm in the Mosel is a strong
supporter of the new system. He
points out that in addition to the
higher level of residual sugar, there
are other stylistic differences between
a traditional, off-dry Spätlese and a
Spätlese Trocken: “Grapes for a top-
class dry wine need to be absolutely
healthy and without any botrytis
infection.” By contrast, grapes for
traditional Spätlese will show a
certain level of desirable botrytis,
resulting in a very different aromatic
profile. Although many in the industry
are arguing for the change to become
a national regulation, the general
feeling is that there are too many
large-volume producers using the
Spätlese Trocken designation who
would oppose the legislation.
Other members of the German
wine industry, including U.S.
importer Derek Vinnicombe, object
to the change. He believes that
the Spätlese Trocken term is an
important category for dry wines
that aren’t entitled to the Grosses
Gewächs designation. Moreover, it
highlights that the wine has not been
chaptalized. (Grosses Gewächs
wines can be chaptalized.)
Others, including Rainer
Lingenfelder of Lingenfelder
Estate, remain skeptical: “In
Germany, we say, ‘The French
have it so good. If we adopt their
system, we’ll make all that money
too.’ I’m not so sure.”
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