Germany: VDP Wines Punch Above Their Weight

VDP wineries may only represent 3% of the German market by volume, but their 10% of the value makes them very significant. It also explains the importance of  the annual Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru) tasting. Alexandra Wrann of WEINWIRTSCHAFT takes a closer look.

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VDP eagle as a distinctive mark on the capsules (Photo: VDP/Peter Bender)
VDP eagle as a distinctive mark on the capsules (Photo: VDP/Peter Bender)

The German wine market is large. About 9 mill. hl of wine is produced per year by numerous small producers, large wineries and cooperatives. The Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates (VDP) with its approximately 200 wineries occupies a special position. In quantitative terms, the association represents only about 3% of German wine production. Certainly, there are a lot of premium producers who - intentionally or otherwise - are not members of the VDP. They produce excellent wines without the rules and construct of Gutswein, Ortswein, Erste Lage and Großes Gewächs.

Nevertheless, the VDP gets a lot of national and international attention with the so-called Vorpremiere, that is, the preview and annual presentation of the new Grosses Gewächs in Wiesbaden. According to the association itself, around 170 tasters from 22 countries travelled to the Hessian capital this year to taste, evaluate and report on the new releases for three days straight. How to justify the spectacle of a tasting of wines that represent only 3% of the production volume (and about 10% of the value)?
 

A Look Back

To answer this question, it is worth taking a look at the history of the VDP. In 1910, four regional associations joined together to form the " Association of German Natural Wine Auctioneers". At that time, the term "natural wine" had a completely different connotation than it does today. But what was true then, as it is today, is the focus on the "auctioneers". The clear goal was to promote the sale of high-quality German wines. Through two world wars, the concept continued, against many odds. Long story short: The VDP has always focused on helping German wine achieve top prices and thus world fame through auctions.

Criticism of the VDP has always taken place and may, of course, be valid in some instances. However, one thing the VDP cannot be accused of is to not have tried to improve the image of German wine around the world. The fact that German wine has always found sales in the most important global markets, even after decades of poor image, is certainly thanks to this very association. The "German GG" has become an international brand that stands for the highest wine quality from Germany.

Important Contribution to the Image of German Wine

No one has to agree with the classifications of the wines, with the site classification, with the fuss that is made about some of the wines themselves in some circles. But what everyone working in the wine industry today must at least acknowledge is that the VDP has made and continues to make a more than significant contribution to the image of German wine in the world with consistency and focus, with strict guidelines and a lot of PR work.

"The annual tasting in Wiesbaden is one of, if not THE, tasting highlight."

The tasting itself can also justifiably be praised as probably the best organised in the German wine scene. Yes, it is primarily about points, ratings, and the question: How well do the wines go down with the professional tasters? At the same time, the annual tasting in Wiesbaden is one of, if not THE, tasting highlight for every invited guest. Never else do you get such a density of almost perfect wines in your glass, can get a comprehensive picture of the current vintage, and can talk shop with colleagues from all over the world. This costs the association a lot of money, but in my opinion, it is very well invested. Because at the end of the day, the VDP - even though it only represents 3% of production - does an enormous service for the entire German wine industry with its elaborate preview.

 

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