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Comprehensive description of all European growing areas, their grape varieties, traditions and legal rules with maps.

Description to Germany

Germany, or rather the area that belongs to it today, has a wine culture that is over two thousand years old. But imported wine was already being drunk before that, as evidenced by a Greek wine bottle made of clay dating from around 400 BC found in a Celtic tomb. The oldest vineyards were located on the banks of the Rhine, Neckar and Moselle. These rivers with their elongated valleys, as well as their tributaries, are still the classic growing areas today. Viticulture was established by the colonization of the Greeks in Gaul and then brought to perfection by the Roman culture. The conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) brought Roman viticulture from the Rhône valley to the Rhine.

The Roman emperor Probus (232-282) contributed to the further expansion of the vineyards by promoting measures. In the 5th century, viticulture was already so widespread in the area of present-day Germany that Clovis (466-511) enacted the so-called "Salian Law", which made the theft of a vine a punishable offence. In the 6th and 7th centuries, viticulture spread to southern and northern Germany. The Frankish King Dagobert I (610-639) is documented as a donor of vineyards to churches or monasteries. Wine-growing in the Palatinate is documented by a document of King Siegbert III. from the year 653 and in the 8th century there are already well over a hundred wine-growing communities in the Palatinate mentioned.

Emperor Charlemagne (742-814) gave important impulses, as he had dense forests cleared and planted with vines from Hungary, Italy, Spain, Lorraine and the Champagne region. He passed the first laws and gave permission to sell the wine he had produced himself in Buschenschanken. Crucial for cultivated viticulture were the Cistercians, who founded thousands of monasteries in Europe and were professionally engaged in vineyard care, grape variety selection and wine making. In 1136, twelve monks from Burgundy founded the famous Eberbach Monastery in the Rheingau. Over the next 100 years, 200 branches were established on the Rhine between Worms and Cologne. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the monastery and its branches were, so to speak, the largest winegrowing enterprise in the world. Initially, the monks planted vines brought from Burgundy, mainly red wine varieties. They soon realised, however, that white wine varieties thrived best in the Rheingau.

In the High Middle Ages (1050-1250), due to the effects of the Medieval Warm Period, the cultivation limits of about 200 m were higher than today, so that agriculture and viticulture experienced a great expansion. The largest vineyard area was then reached in the 15th century with about 400,000 hectares (about four times as much as today). At that time, however, Alsace with its extensive vineyards was also included. However, the vineyards were mainly located in low-lying flat areas due to the clearing of heavily forested areas in northern Franconia. The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), like the rest of Europe, left behind destruction on an apocalyptic scale, from which German viticulture recovered only very slowly. Many former flourishing wine regions such as Bavaria, northern, eastern and central Germany were no longer planted with vines at all. But also the emergence of beer as a mass drink strongly affected viticulture. Wine became rarer and more expensive. In 1563 a piece of Rhine wine (1,200 litres) was still available for 300 Goldtaler, some years later 500 Goldtaler.

Further setbacks with periods of cold weather and the resulting many failed harvests were caused by the effects of the Little Ice Age (1450-1850) with particularly cold periods from 1570 to 1630 and 1675 to 1715. Despite this, from the beginning of the 18th century onwards, viticulture picked up again. Due to the secularisation of the monasteries at the beginning of the 19th century, mainly noblemen took the place of monks, to whom the current standard is owed. Quality began to play a major role. In this context, the Prussian layer classification took place in 1868 and 1897. From the beginning of the 1860s, the phylloxera and mildew plague came over Germany, which in turn led to severe devastation.

During the French revolutionary wars (1792-1815), the church's property, secularised under Napoleon (1769-1821), gave rise to vineyards that were mostly owned by the state. The objective of these "model/teaching wineries" was and is in part still today to spread modern viticultural production methods. This was done by testing new methods in the vineyard, as well as by producing and distributing grafted vines. In 1892 the first wine law was introduced, where among other things controlled sugaring was still permitted. In the first half of the 20th century, the two world wars caused a major recession and by 1945 the area under vines had shrunk to less than 50,000 hectares. The wine trade export reached a low point. From the 1950s onwards, a positive change took place.

Viticulture areas

Germany's wine-growing regions are among the most northerly in the world and are thus located in the border area between the warm and humid Gulf Stream climate in the west and the dry continental climate in the east. Due to the widely scattered vineyards, the soils, some of which are very different, consist of basalt, mottled sandstone, rock, loess, shell limestone, porphyry, slate and volcanic rock. The best conditions for viticulture are provided by south- or southwest-facing slopes in protected valleys, such as on the Rhine and its tributaries or on the Elbe, Saale and Unstrut. There are 13 cultivation areas for quality wine with 43 areas, 167 large sites and 2,658 individual sites.

Land wine region
This quality level was introduced in 1982. There are 26 country wine regions, most of which are sub-areas within the production areas. These are Ahrtaler LW, Badischer LW, Bayrischer-Bodensee LW, Brandenburger LW, LW Main (formerly Fränkischer LW), LW der Mosel, LW Neckar, LW Oberrhein, LW Rhein, LW Rhein-Neckar, LW der Ruwer, LW der Saar, Mecklenburger LW, Central German LW, Nahegauer LW, Pfälzer LW, Regensburger LW, Rheinburgen - LW, Rheingauer LW, Rheinischer LW, Saarländischer LW, Sächsischer LW, Schleswig-Holsteiner LW, Schwäbischer LW, Starkenburger LW and Taubertäler LW.

Growing area
There are 13 growing areas, which are divided into areas, large sites and individual vineyards. Only in these areas may the designation quality wine be used. They are mainly concentrated in the southwest in the valleys of the Rhine and Moselle and their numerous tributaries. In the south they are rather loosely scattered in the landscape. Due to the reunification in 1990 the two new wine growing areas Saxony and Saale-Unstrut in the east were added. Outside of these regions, vines are also cultivated on 56 hectares of vineyards in Bavaria, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein. However, the wines produced from them may only be marketed as regional wines.

Area (BER): With the exception of the Ahr, Nahe and Rheingau, the growing areas are divided into two or more areas. The areas are divided into large vineyards.

Large layer (GL): This comprises several adjacent, but not necessarily contiguous, individual layers. Usually, this large layer is named after the most famous single layer (before reduction). However, the information on the bottle label does not indicate whether it is a single layer or a large layer.

Single vineyard (EL): This is rarely less than five hectares in size. However, there is a range from less than one to 200 hectares. Over the centuries, about 25,000 vineyard names have developed, often with only a few rows of vines. These have been greatly reduced by the 1970 wine law and the 1971 land consolidation

Land register location: the smallest geographical unit of protected origin. Since 2014, any wine-growing enterprise can apply to have vines registered in the cadastre defined as a cadastral location, which can be indicated on the label.

With one single exception, Germany's wine-growing regions are located in European wine-growing zone A, only the Baden region (like Austria) is part of wine-growing zone B. In 1972 there were still more than 100,000 wine-growing enterprises, since then there has been a continuous strong structural change and an enormous reduction to 42,000. The 16,827 enterprises in the table are only those with 0.5 hectares of vineyard area or more. Some 4,300 holdings cultivate less than 1 hectare; that is a quarter. Some 3,100 farms cultivate more than 10 hectares, of which 890 farms cultivate more than 20 hectares. They cultivate more than 60% of the total area. The average farm size grew from 4.8 to 5.9 hectares. Approximately 9 million hectolitres of wine are produced annually in different ways (see also under Wine production volumes). The export amounts to about 25%, the traditional buyers are Great Britain, USA, Netherlands and Japan. In 2018, 102,874 hectares of vineyard area were declared:

Ahr 1 1 43 157 563 17,1 82,9 557
Bathing 9 15 315 4.111 15.828 59.5 40,5 15.836
Franconia 3 23 216 1.635 6.130 81,9 18,1 6.104
Hessian mountain road 2 3 23 70 467 79,2 20,8 427
Middle Rhine 2 11 111 115 470 85,1 14,9 458
Moselle 6 19 524 2.116 8.798 90,5 9,5 8.976
Near 1 7 328 484 4.237 76,0 24,0 4.163
Palatinate 2 25 325 2.287 23.554 65,3 34,7 23.467
Rheingau 1 11 123 383 3.211 85,6 14,4 3.062
Rhinehesse 3 24 434 2.348 26.758 71,2 28,8 26.480
Saale-Unstrut 3 4 37 92 786 74,2 25,8 704
Saxony 2 4 23 83 501 82,2 17,8 461
Württemberg 6 17 207 2.946 11.461 31,8 68,2 11.435
remaining areas (local wine),
z. B. Brandenburg
- - - 90 56 - - -
TOTAL 40 164 2.709 16.827 102.874 66,5 33,5 102.186

Karte mit den 13 Anbaugebieten Deutschlands

Grape varieties and vineyards

Approximately 140 grape varieties have been approved, but only a dozen of these are of market significance. Many new grape varieties have been introduced in the last ten years, most of them PIWI varieties. The trend towards red wine varieties in all growing regions has now passed its peak and is slightly declining. Exactly two thirds of the grape varieties are white wine varieties and one third red wine varieties. In 1998 the ratio was 71% white wine varieties to 29% red wine varieties. The most common grape variety with a continuing upward trend is still Riesling with a share of over a fifth. The ascendants are the Burgundy varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc as well as Sauvignon Blanc, the relegated varieties Müller-Thurgau, Kerner and Blauer Portugieser. The grape variety status 2018 (0 = less than 0.5 ha):

Grape variety
german Main name
In Germany
common synonyms
Colour Hectare
Riesling White Riesling, Rhine Riesling white 23.960 23,3 22.580
Müller-Thurgau Rivaner, Riesling-Silvaner white 12.057 11,7 13.628
Pinot Noir incl. velvet red Pinot Noir, Blauer S., Pinot Noir red 11.762 11,4 11.733
Dornfelder - red 7.581 7,4 8.000
Ruländer Pinot Gris, Pinot gris white 6.713 6,5 4.517
White Burgundy Pinot Blanc, Pinot Blanc white 5.540 5,4 3.941
Green Silvaner Silvaner, Sylvaner white 4.744 4,6 5.187
Portuguese Blue Portuguese red 2.799 2,7 4.202
Kerner Seedling white 2.463 2,4 3.584
Trollinger Blue Trollinger, Schiava Grossa red 2.172 2,1 2.431
Chardonnay - white 2.100 2,0 1.228
Limberger/Lemberger Blaufränkisch, Blue Limberger red 1.912 1,9 1.747
Milling vine Black Riesling, Pinot Meunier red 1.910 1,9 2.303
Regent - red 1.784 1,7 2.122
Bacchus Early Scheurebe white 1.667 1,6 1.977
Scrubber Seedling 88 white 1.412 1,4 1.655
Blanc sauvignon Nutmeg Sylvaner white 1.324 1,3 516
White chasselas Chasselas, Gutedel white 1.121 1,1 1.132
Red traminer Traminer / Gewürztraminer white 1.057 1,1 838
Merlot - red 696 0,7 469
Saint Laurent St. Laurent, Blue St. Laurent red 618 0,6 657
White Elbling Elbling, Kleinberger white 493 0,5 567
Acolone - red 461 0,5 482
Ortega - white 440 0,4 622
Huxelrebe - white 424 0,4 613
Yellow Muscatel Muscat Plate / Muscat Blanc white 423 0,4 190
Cabernet sauvignon - red 399 0,4 295
Dominatrix - red 366 0,4 405
Morio Muscat Morio white 361 0,4 488
Cabernet Mitos - red 300 0,3 320
Faberrebe - white 270 0,3 551
Cabernet dorsa - red 263 0,3 234
Auxerrois Lesser Heunisch white 267 0,3 190
Dark fields - red 227 0,2 341
Early Burgundy Blauer Frühburgunder, Clevner red 241 0,2 256
Solaris - white 160 0,2 66
Cabernet blanc - white 158 0,2 0
Johanniter - white 124 0,1 77
Blue Zweigelt Zweigelt, Rotburger red 114 0,1 100
Nutmeg Trollinger Trollinger nutmeg, Muscat d'Hamburg red 113 0,1 65
Herald's vine - red 97 0,1 147
Syrah Shiraz red 79 0,1 27
Cabernet franc - red 76 0,1 16
Rieslaner Main Riesling white 76 0,1 87
Winning vine - white 75 0,1 102
Cabernet Cubin - red 62 0,1 59
Muscaris - white 58 0,1 0
Seasoning - white 51 0,1 0
Dakapo - red 50 0,1 58
Nobling - white 50 0,1 61
Souvignier Gris - white 50 0,1 0
Phoenix - white 48 0,1 48
Cabernet cortis - red 46 0,1 28
Reichensteiner - white 43 0,1 100
Ehrenfelser - white 39 0,1 85
Gold Muscat - white 39 0,1 0
Cabernet dorio - red 30 - 37
Blue Silvaner - white 29 - 38
Green Veltliner Weißgipfler white 29 - 7
Gold Riesling (1) Yellow Riesling, Gold Muscat white 28 - 21
Viognier - white 26 - 0
Chancellor - white 25 - 33
Bouvier Boulder white 24 - 27
Optima Optima 113 white 24 - 59
Pinotine - red 21 - 0
Red elk Elbling white 18 - 18
Kernel - white 16 - 17
Nutmeg Ottonel - white 16 - 12
Prior - red 16 - 0
Schönburger - white 16 - 20
Deaf Black Blue Hanging Parrot red 16 - 14
Ruby - red 15 - 13
Helios - white 13 - 0
Jewel - white 13 - 23
Bead Pearl of Alzey white 13 - 33
Sprinklers - white 13 - 42
Albalonga - white 12 - 14
Cover Red - red 12 - 20
Helpensteiner Blue Vineyard red 12 - 19
Monarch - red 11 - 0
Rondo - red 11 - 10
Saphira - white 11 - 0
Cabertin - red 10 - 0
Rotberger - red 10 - 15
Tempranillo - red 10 - 0
Cabernet carbon - red 9 - 0
Red Muscatel Muscat Blanc, Muscat Plate white 8 - 2
Ehrenbreitsteiner - white 7 - 10
Neronet - red 6 - 0
Bronner - white 5 - 3
Cabernet carol - red 5 - 0
Hegel - red 5 - 10
Malmsey Frühroter Veltliner, Former Red white 5 - 5
Palas - red 5 - 8
Piroso - red 5 - 0
Wild nutmeg - red 5 - 0
Merzling - white 4 - 4
Freisamer - white 3 - 4
Hibernal - white 3 - 1
Hölder - white 3 - 6
Blauburger - red 2 - 3
Staufer - white 1 - 1
Villaris - white 1 - 0
André - red - - 5
Arnsburger - white - - 1
Dyer's grape Teinturier du Cher red - - 1
Fontanara - white - - 1
Mariensteiner - white - - 3
Orion - white - - 4
Pearl of Zala Zala Gyöngye white - - 1
Principal - white - - 3
Septimer - white - - 2
Silcher - white - - 3
Sirius - white - - 1
otherwise. red varieties - red 117 0,1 175
otherwise. white varieties - white 239 0,2 256
RED VARIETIES 34.461 33,5 36.825
WHITE TYPES 68413 66,5 65.361
TOTAL 102.874 100 102.186

Wine categories / quality levels

In August 2009, the EU wine market regulation came into force with fundamental changes in wine types and quality levels (see Quality System). In Germany, the new designations PDO and PGI were prohibited until the end of 2011. From 2012, the regulation came into force to allow the old traditional designations Landwein, Qualitätswein and Prädikatswein (with all predicate levels) to continue to be used. In addition, the new terms "protected geographical indication" and "protected origin" may be used on the label as alternatives, but not in abbreviated form:

  • Wine without a more specific indication of origin (formerly the now prohibited term table wine)
  • Wine with grape varieties and/or vintage year
  • Wine with a protected geographical indication (PGI) = local wine
  • Wine with a protected designation of origin (PDO) = quality wine and predicate wine

Wine without variety and/or vintage information - German wine

Must be made exclusively from grapes harvested domestically. Must come exclusively from authorised vine varieties. Must have a minimum natural alcoholic strength by volume of 5% vol (44 °Oe) in zone A and 6% vol (50 °Oe) in zone B. Must have an actual alcoholic strength of not less than 8,5 % vol = 67 g/l in zones A and B after any enrichment. Must have a total acidity, expressed as tartaric acid, of not less than 3,5 g/l.

Wine with variety and/or vintage information - German wine

Only authorised vine varieties may be used and indicated.

Country wine and/or wine with a protected geographical indication

Only the long text is authorised; the short form 'wine PGI' is not authorised. The wine must come from at least 85% of grapes harvested in the area, e.g. Brandenburger Landwein. Concentration by cold is not permitted. An enrichment of the must before fermentation is permitted. The maximum yield per hectare is 15,000 litres of wine. Must correspond to "dry" or "semi-dry" taste.

Quality wine and/or wine with a protected designation of origin

Only the long text is allowed; the short form "wine PDO" is allowed is not permitted. The traditional designation QbA (quality wine from certain growing regions) is still possible (but is hardly used any more). After a positive sensory and analytical test, the official test number is assigned. The wine must have typical characteristics and be free of defects in appearance, smell and taste. It can be used for cultivation areas, but also for narrower geographical designations (area, large site, place name, individual site). Vineyard and field names (parcels) that were no longer permitted under the 1971 Wine Act may be reused under certain circumstances. The wines require product specifications, which describe the production (grape varieties, yields, etc.) and the taste of the wine's origin.

The grapes used must come exclusively from authorised vine varieties of the species Vitis vinifera. They must have been harvested in a single "specified region" and, in principle, have been processed into quality wine in the specified region. The grape must obtained in fermentable containers must have at least the minimum natural alcoholic strength by volume laid down for each specified region and for each vine variety. The actual alcoholic strength by volume must be at least 7% vol = 56 g/l and the wine must have a minimum total alcoholic strength by volume of 9% vol = 71 g/l. The addition of concentrated grape must and cold concentration are prohibited.

Predicate wines

According to EU law also a quality wine, as officially only the three quality levels mentioned exist. However, traditional designations may still be used, which is also used by other countries such as Austria, Italy (DOC and DOCG) and Spain. According to German wine law, a Prädikatswein is therefore a higher level of quality wine. There are six types of Prädikat wines: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. These must at least meet the quality wine criteria. In addition, higher must weights apply (detailed descriptions can be found under the relevant keywords):

CabinetAt least 67 °Oe to 82 °Oe must weight different for each growing region. At least 7% vol = 56 g/l actual alcohol content. At least 9% = 71 g/l minimum total alcoholic strength.

Late HarvestAt least 76 °Oe to 90 °Oe must weight different for each growing region. As a guideline, a "late harvest" and fully ripe condition of the grapes is required.

SelectionAt least 83 °Oe to 100 °Oe must weight varies according to the growing region. All diseased and unripe berries must be eliminated.

BeerenausleseAt least 110 °Oe to 128 °Oe must weight varies according to the growing region. Only largely noble rot or at least overripe grapes may be used. The naturally existing alcohol content must be at least 5.5% vol.

TrockenbeerenausleseAt least 150 °Oe to 154 °Oe must weight varies according to the growing region. Must be pressed largely from noble rotten grapes.

Ice wineAt least 110 °Oe to 128 °Oe must weight (like Beerenauslese). The frozen grapes are crushed and pressed, the ice remains in the marc.

special wine types

There are a number of specific designations or types of wine with legal requirements for wine. These are Badisch Rotgold, Classic, Federweißer, Liebfrauenmilch, Rotling, Schieler, Schillerwein, Selection and Weißherbst.

Sparkling wineA higher quality sparkling wine bears the designation "Deutscher Sekt", in this case it consists of 100% grapes grown in Germany. The designation "Sekt bA" means that the grapes come 100% from a certain production area.

Organic wineThe production is at least subject to the guidelines of the EU organic regulation, as well as the often even stricter rules of organic associations. The German umbrella organisation is BÖLW (see also in detail under Organic Viticulture).

important vine rules

The German standard work on wine law is "Weinrecht" (Walhalla-Verlag), which in the edition published in 2020 comprises 4,604 pages in four folders plus CD-ROM. It offers the wine law of the EU as well as of Germany and the federal states. Another comprehensive work is the "Weinrecht Kommentar" by Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Koch. See also under wine law.

Must weightFor each wine quality level there is a minimum must weight or resulting potential alcohol content (see above). Within the quality levels, a further differentiation is made according to grape variety. In order to do justice to the different climatic conditions, these quantities are different for each growing region.

IncomeThe maximum permitted yield is expressed in hl/ha. They are defined responsibly by the responsible authorities of the cultivation areas and vary for each cultivation area and in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate also for each quality group. Regardless of the quality group, these are 80 hl/ha (Saxony), 90 (Baden, Franconia, Saale-Unstrut), 100 (Ahr, Hessische Bergstrasse, Rheingau), 105 (Middle Rhine, Nahe, Palatinate, Rhinehesse), as well as 110 (Württemberg). In Rhineland-Palatinate (Moselle, Nahe, Palatinate, Rhinehesse), these are 105 for quality wine and 125 for Moselle, 125 for country and varietal wines, 150 for German wines, and 200 for base wines for the production of sparkling wines or distillates.

Origin / vintage / grape variety: At least 85% of a wine must come from the indicated origin, grape variety and vintage. If the foreign content (from a different origin, grape variety or vintage than that indicated in the designation) reaches the maximum limit of 15%, then a maximum of 10% foreign sweet reserve may be added. This is because the total foreign content including the sweet reserve may not exceed 25%. "German wines" must originate 100% from grapes harvested in Germany. Under seed law, 87 yielding grape varieties (66 of which are listed above), 15 rootstock grape varieties and 12 ornamental grape varieties are permitted. A detailed description with the wine-growing characteristics is contained in the "Descriptive List of Grape Varieties" of the Bundessortenamt (see under Plant Variety Protection). The indication of varietal purity is only permitted if the wine comes 100% from the specified grape variety.

Sugar contentThe residual sugar content is optionally indicated on the label. A wine is considered dry if its total acidity is not more than 4 g/l or 9 g/l if its total acidity is not more than 2 g/l lower than the residual sugar. At 8 g/l, for example, this requires 6 g/l total acidity. The other degrees are semi-dry with 12 g/l or 18 g/l, if the total acidity is not more than 10 g/l lower, sweet with a higher value than for semi-dry but max. 45 g/l, as well as sweet with zum. 45 g/l. Terms not relevant to wine law are fine-tangy, Franconian dry and tart.

Sweetening (increase in residual sugar): the wine may not be sweetened by more than 4% vol alcohol. Only grape must designated as a sweet reserve may be used, concentrated grape must and RTK is prohibited for country wine, quality wine and Prädikatswein (is even a restriction of EU law; the reason is to preserve the originality of the wine). If grape must is added to the predicate wine, it must correspond to the same predicate wine level.

Enrich (increasing the natural alcoholic strength by volume): May be carried out on all types of wine (irrespective of wine colour and quality grade) by a maximum of 2% vol. alcohol using the authorised means. In the past, only sucrose (dry sugar) was permitted for agricultural and quality wines in Germany. However, following a ruling by the European Court of Justice, the German Wine Law was amended in 1989. After a successful application, quality wine b. A. may not exceed an alcohol content of 15% vol. In principle, enrichment is not permitted for Prädikatswein.

Institutions and committees

Important institutions, committees, authorities and Research institutes which carry out research, organising, controlling, publishing or training functions in connection with viticulture are the German Wine Academy, DLG (German Agricultural Society), DWF (German Wine Fund), DWI (German Wine Institute), DWV (German Winegrowers' Association), Freiburg, Geilweilerhof, Geisenheim, Society for the History of Wine, Julius Kühn Institute (Geilweilerhof), VDP (Association of German Prädikat Wineries), Weinbauring Franken and Weinsberg (Winegrowing Institute)

Influential German wine authors and wine critics are/were Paula Bosch, Armin Diel, Gerhard Eichelmann, Marcus Hofschuster, Rudolf Knoll, Norbert Pobbig, Jens Priewe, Mario Scheuermann and Eckhard Supp. They are featured in many wine magazines and wine guides such as Der Berliner Weinführer, Busche Winzer & Weingüter, Eichelmann Deutschlands Weine, Gault Millau, Meiningers Weinwelt and Wein-Plus.

Map: DWI (German Wine Institute)

In this section you will find
currently 143,110 Wines and 22,871 Producers, including 2,330 classified producers.
Rating system Their sources in Wine Guide Wine Samples