The Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) is a German organisation which promotes the country’s top wines and estates. It unites 197 of Germany’s finest wineries under one banner; offering customers guarantees on quality and yield.
Founded in 1910 by the Mayor of Trier Albert von Bruchhausen, the VDP’s goal at the time was to bring together producers under a ‘quality standard’ umbrella that made it easier and more fruitful for them to sell their wines on the auction market.
Today it brings together Germany’s top wineries from all of the country’s 13 wine regions with a common aim of promoting the highest levels of quality within the Germany industry.
Members must adhere to strict rules including low yields, higher starting must weights, selective hand harvesting and five-yearly inspections. VDP members are entitled to use the VDP logotype, a stylised eagle with a cluster of grapes, on the neck and labels of their bottles.
They also have access to the VDP-specific classifications ‘Erste Lage’ and ‘Grosse Lage’ for top dry wines that fulfil the quality requirements. These wines are subject to a tasting panel, must have a maximum yield of 50hl/ha, must be hand harvested and made from traditional grapes in proven sites.
There are currently 197 members, up from 161 in 1990 when the current rules were established. In that time 128 wineries have joined the group and 92 have departed.
Membership is by invitation only with producers known for long-standing quality and a commitment to excellence on a local and global level considered. Members can be demoted from the VDP if they do not meet the organisation’s standards during their five year inspection.
As well as the top two tiers – Erste Lage and Grosse Lage – there are two further rungs to the VDP classifications ladder, Ortswein and Gutswein.
Gutswein: These are often the first wines of a wine year to be bottled and sold and seen as trend-setters for the vintage. They must come from estate-grown grapes and producers are given freedom here to experiment and innovate.
Ortsweine: Wines that express regionality. Fruit must come from one particular village and offer a sense of expression of that particular place. Only regional grape varieties are used and many of these wines come from higher-classified Grosse Lage or Erste Lage sites.
Erste Lage: Premier Cru wine from first-class vineyards where optimal growing conditions can be found. Wines must be grown and made with a view to sustainability and tradition.
Grosse Lage: The designation for the highest quality German vineyards. Complex – grand cru – wines which express single sites and are known for their potential long-ageing. Dry wines within this category are known as Grosse Gewächs.
Around 5% of Germany’s vineyards are included in the VDP classification, accounting for approximately 7.5% of the turnover of the German wine industry. Riesling is the most important grape among VDP producers with 55% of all VDP vineyards planted with Riesling, compared to 23% across Germany as a whole.