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German wine - wine basics

Quality categories - German wines

Among the most important legally required declarations on a label is a wine's quality category. The German wine law makes far more distinctions within the two broad quality categories mandated by the European Union wine law - table wine and quality wine - than other wine-growing countries.

The ripeness of the grapes at harvest time is a key factor to a wine's quality category. One indication of ripeness is an increasing amount of natural sugar in the grape juice or must. The riper the grapes, the higher the amount of natural sugar in their juice (measured as «must weight» in degrees Oechsle) and, hence, the greater the potential quantity of natural alcohol in a wine. The wine law has established legal minimum amounts of natural alcohol that a wine must achieve in order to qualify for a specific quality category.

Natural alcohol is of natural origin. It is measured prior to fermentation and prior to implementing cellar techniques to strengthen alcoholic content via concentration or enrichment (see chaptalization). Existing alcohol reflects yeast performance. It is the amount of alcohol that is actually produced when yeast converts the sugar in grape juice during fermentation. It is the amount of alcohol in the bottle, expressed in percent by volume on the label - a mandatory declaration since 1988.

The table wine category (wines made from normally ripe grapes) comprises two levels in Germany:


The quality wine category (wines made from ripe, very ripe or overripe grapes) comprises two levels in Germany. These wines are subject to a quality control examination and must bear a quality control test number (A.P.Nr.) on the label:

Photo: ©, Text: © DWI
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