Taste & Quality
A wine label is more or less the calling card of a wine. It gives the consumer a wealth of information that's important when making a purchase: vintage, grape variety, origin, quality category, type and style of wine, alcohol content, name of the producer and the quality control test number.
Some of this information is mandatory, some is optional. The wine law prescribes the size of the script for certain data. The labels on Qualiätswein or Qualitätswein mit Prädikat must show the quality category of the wine as well as its specified region of origin. The label might also name a more narrowly defined appellation of origin, such as a village, or a village followed by a vineyard name.
The quality control test number (A.P.Nr.), producer (Gutsabfüllung or Erzeugerabfüllung) or bottler (Abfüller), the existing alcohol in percent by volume and the liquid content of the bottle are all mandatory declarations. The residual sugar content is permitted, but optional. The vintage can only be named if 85% of the wine is made from grapes harvested in that year.
A grape variety can only be named if 85% of the wine is made from that particular variety and its typical flavor is reflected in the wine. Two varieties can be named (in descending order of their content) if the wine is made exclusively from those two varieties.
The diverse information on a label is actually to the consumer's advantage, yet there are many who find it overwhelming, particularly if there is no personnel on hand at the point of sale to offer advice.
The quality control test number is a good orientation point, as is the name of a reputable producer. The grape variety influences the bouquet and flavor of a wine to a considerable extent. The style of drier wines is usually indicated on the label: trocken denotes very dry wines, and off-dry wines are labeled halbtrocken . The name of a vineyard site provides a point of reference, but seldom reveals much about what to expect - not least because one vineyard is usually owned by several producers, each of whom produces an entirely different style of wine.
For some time now, there have been a number of initiatives throughout Germany's wine-growing regions to simplify labels. Improved visual clarity is the goal of many producers. Some limit the data to grape variety, style and producer's name, and omit the name of a vineyard site.
Others put all the optional information on a back label, thereby uncluttering the front label. Last but not least: during the past few years a great deal of creativity has gone into label design, including the so-called artists' labels, showing that German wine producers are in tune with the times.