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German state tasters fooled by cheap import

A German winemaker has fooled official state tasters into thinking cheap imported Pinot Gris was quality German wine, in a bid to expose flaws in the country’s wine regulation system.

Edgar Schätzler, a winegrower in Guntersblum in the state of Hesse filled his bottles with Hungarian Pinot Gris, which experts labeled ‘quality German wine’ in official blind tastings, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported this week.

Schätzler said the stunt shows the ‘absurdity’ of Germany’s wine quality controls.

Since 1970, only certain German wines can obtain a quality control number known as the amtliche Prüfnummer, which should prove that the wine has passed various tests and can go to market. Only wines considered of ‘quality’ – Qualitätswein – can obtain that number.

Schätzler reckons German wine quality is ‘in danger’ because wines too easily obtain quality certifications from the nation’s 100 or so official state wine tasters.

But not all the wines that pass the tests reflect German terroir, and when inexpensive wines coming from abroad – such as a 2004 Hungarian Pinot Grigio, sold today in discount markets for €1.59 a bottle – also obtain the quality label, something is terribly wrong, according to Schätzler.

Two official tasters who have tasted Schätzler’s wines in the past told decanter.com the winemaker’s ploy is ‘typical.’

‘He is always causing trouble,’ said Claudia Rehm, an official taster for the states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate. ‘Our job is to approve wines that have no fundamental flaws, not judge varietals or their origins.’

The objective of the quality control tests is to filter out wines to be downgraded, and which have fundamental flaws, such as volatile acidity or excessive sugar, explained Claudia’s husband Rolf Rehm, also an official state wine taster.

‘Given the amount of winemaking styles these days, in Germany and abroad, it is not surprising that some official testers could be fooled into thinking that a Pinot Gris from Hungary – which has no fundamental flaws – could taste like a Riesling, perhaps a special style of ‘Riesling’ and one that may not be particularly good, either,’ he added.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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