Classifications and the VDP

“Newcomers to German wines might be best served by putting down their Deutsch dictionary and simply looking for an eagle clutching grapes on the label. Since 1910, the symbol of the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) has denoted a quality producer.” 

Wine Spectator, July 2010

The Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) is an independent German wine body that spearheads the promotion of the country’s leading wines and producers. Headquartered in Mainz, its close to 200 members operate within a framework of stringent winemaking regulations that are even stricter than those of the broader German Wine Act.

The VDP. Classification is based on an in-house statute of Germany’s Prädikat wine estates, in which the quality of a wine is defined according to “terroir”. This means origin and quality are inherently linked.

For the Prädikat wine producers, the vineyard site is the decisive mark of quality. The goal of the VDP Classification is to assess the quality potential of Germany’s very best vineyard sites, secure the future of Germany’s unique viticultural landscape, restore esteem for Germany’s outstanding dry wines, and underscore the traditional connotation of the Prädikats as attributes reserved for wines with natural, ripe sweetness.

The organization was founded in 1910 with the objective of establishing a quality standard for producers that would make it easier for members to sell their wares on the wine auction market. Today, Germany’s top wineries from each of the country’s 13 wine regions are united under its umbrella.

The VDP’s motto is “the narrower the origin, the higher the quality”. When you see its logo, a proud eagle with a cluster of grapes emblazoned on a bottle, you have a guarantee that the wine has been produced to the most rigorous of standards and is of the highest caliber.

Members gain invitation-only entry to the VDP because of their reputations or quality and through rigorous adherence to the body’s protocol. This includes criteria like low yields, strict rules on must weights, stringent harvesting practices, and selective hand harvesting as well as standards inspections held every five years.

The new VDP. Classification is valid as of vintage 2012. The VDP covers approximately 5% of Germany’s vineyards and accounts for 7.5% of wine industry turnover.

The VDP Classifications

Standards set for quality and wine enjoyment

Grosse Lage

VDP wines from these sites are
Germany’s absolute best

This designation highlights the very best in German wine production. Grand Crus with unique single site expression, sustainable production, and long aging potential are included under this heading. Vineyards are planted with regional varietals that are suited to each specific site.
All grapes are selectively hand-harvested. For premier quality, the cap on volume is 60 hectoliters per hectare. In the winery, wines must be produced solely through traditional methods.

Dry wine from VDP Grosse Lage is called VDP Grosses Gewächs and labeled “Qualitätswein trocken”. Naturally and nobly sweet wines bear the classic Prädikat levels.

Erste Lage

First class wines 

This category encompasses fine Premier Cru wines from first-class vineyards that enjoy the best and most sustainable growing conditions.
Only regional grape varieties are permitted. The fruit is entirely hand-harvested and must be fully ripe at the time of picking. The maximum yield is 60 hectoliters per hectare.

Dry VDP Erste Lage is labeled “Qualitätswein trocken”. Nobly and naturally sweet VDP Erste Lage wines bear the standard Prädikat levels.


Wines from a distinct place, pure and expressive

The focus of wines in this category is the expression of place. Grapes must come from vineyards located in one specific village and reflect the special terroir characteristics of its locale. Only regional varietals can appear in this classification.
For the highest quality, harvest yield cannot exceed 75 hectoliters per hectare.

Dry VDP Ortswein is labeled “Qualitätswein trocken”. Naturally sweet VDP Orstwein bears the standard Prädikat levels of Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Bererenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese or Eiswein.


These VDP wines are good from the ground up

Producers have free reign over experimenting with the character of these wines and, as such, they are regarded as being innovative vintages. Usually, the first wines of a year to be bottled and put on the market, the key stipulation is that they must be made from grapes grown on the producer’s estate.
This creative freedom results in Gutswein wines acting as calling cards for a winery, giving an impression about its special philosophy and approach to winemaking.

All grape varietals are accepted under this heading with at least four-fifths typical for the region in which they are grown. 

At harvest, there is a limit of 75 hectoliters per hectare.