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November 01, 2010

VDP Erste Lage - First Growth - Grand Cru

As I wrote about in my recent posts, we spent a great day at the estate Reichsrat von Buhl. Part of the event was a tasting of 2009 Grosse Gewächse - the dry wines from Erste Lagen (First Growth, Grand Cru). This is to explain a bit more....:

The definitions are very strict and set by the VDP, Verband der Prädikatsweingüter, Germany's elite estates.

Erste Lage (First Growth, Grand Cru):
"A site’s absolutely finest, narrowly demarcated parcels with discernible terroir qualities. Designated grape varieties and taste profiles. Maximum yield of 50hl/ha. Selective harvesting by hand. Minimum must weight equivalent to Spätlese. First release on 1 May for wines with natural sweetness, on 1 September for Grosses Gewächs the year after harvest, red wines a year later."
The terroir is defined as follows:
"Only wines that reflect the character of their terroir are permitted to bear the name of a vineyard site. Terroir is determined by three components, a “magic triangle” that includes (1) the overall quality and character of a vineyard site; (2) the skill of a grower; and (3) the quality of a vintage. Terroir is recognizable in a wine. The quality of a vineyard is defined by its soil (topographical position, climate and microclimate). Only certain grape varieties are well-suited for a specific terroir. Our knowledge about the best sites and the most suitable grape varieties is based on centuries of experience."
Fruity wines with natural sweetness will carry the Prädikat Spätlese, Auslese... instead of 'Grosses Gewächs', which can always only be a dry wine (= per definition max 9 g/l residual sugar, but most GGs have max 4 g/l). This will help us, the consumers, to distinguish a wine by it's terroir and level of sweetness. Grosse Gewächs is shown on the label with GG and it does not have to state 'trocken', as always dry. The Rheingau refers to Erstes Gewächs (instead of GG). All the bottles filled with wines from First Growths, show the logo as above.

Grape varieties that are allowed for GGs are different in the individual wine regions as follows:
Ahr: Spätburgunder, Frühburgunder, Riesling (only sweet wines)
Mittelrhein: Riesling
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer: Riesling
Nahe: Riesling
Rheingau: Riesling, Spätburgunder
Hessische Bergstraße: Riesling, Weißer Burgunder, Grauer Burgunder, Spätburgunder
Rheinhessen: Riesling, Spätburgunder
Franken: Riesling, Silvaner, Weißer Burgunder, Spätburgunder
Saale-Unstrut: Riesling, Silvaner, Weißer Burgunder, Spätburgunder
Sachsen: Riesling, Weißer Burgunder, Spätburgunder
Pfalz: Riesling, Weißer Burgunder, Spätburgunder
Württemberg: Riesling, Weißer Burgunder, Grauer Burgunder, Spätburgunder, Lemberger
Baden: Riesling, Weißer Burgunder, Grauer Burgunder, Spätburgunder

In 2009, 360 different wines from 143 German estates and 209 vineyards were marketed as GG / Erstes Gewächs. The first wines by this new definition (building on traditional aspects) were marketed in 2001.

The Pfalz has some 42 vineyards that qualify as Erste Lage. Deidesheim and Forst have 12 of those and the most famous ones are found here. Which brings me to the GG tasting at Reichsrat von Buhl in my next post.

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