Take the mystery out of reading German wine labels

Before we begin our study of the white wines of Germany, tell me this: Have you memorised the 7 Grand Crus of Chablis, the 32 Grands Crus of the Cote d’Or, and the 391 different wineries of the Napa Valley? I hope you have, so you can begin to memorise the more than 1400 wine villages and 2600 plus vineyards of Germany. No problem, right? what’s 4000 simple little names?
Actually, if you were to have studied German wines before 1971, you would have had thirty thousand different names to remember. There used to be very small parcels of land owned by an assortment of different people. That’s why so many names were involved.


Can you take the mystery out of reading German wine labels?

German wine labels give you plenty of information. For example, take a look at the label above.
Joh Jos Christoffel Erben is the producer
Mosel is the region of the wine’s origin. Note that the region is one of the big four.
2004 is the year the grapes were harvested.
Urzig is the town and Wurzgarten is the vineyard from which the grapes originate. The Germans add the suffix “er” to make Urziger, just as a person from New York is called a New Yorker.
Riesling is the grape variety. Therefore, this wine is at least 85 percent Riesling.
Auslese is the ripeness level, in this case from bunches of overripe grapes.
Qualitatswein mit Prädikat is the quality level of the wine.
A.P.Nr.2 602 041 007 05 is the official testing huber- proof that the wine was tasted by a panel of tasters and passed th extract quality standards required by the government.
Gutsabfullung means “estate-bottled.”


The Ever-green Cork

A cork oak tree is harvested or stripped for the first time when it is twenty five years old, and thereafter once every nine years. It’s sold for many different uses from floor tiles to fishing floats, but the greatest revenue comes from the billions of stoppers we use each year to close our wine and champagne bottles. it’s because of the high value of cork bark that this ancient landscape, with its rural culture and its wildlife, have been protected until today.

Cork’s structural composition is remarkable. A 1 inch cube contains roughly 200 million fourteen-sided cells filled with air. cork is four times lighter than water, yet highly elastic, capable of snapping back to its original shape after withstanding 14,000 pounds of pressure per cubic inch. Cork is impervious to air, almost impermeable by water, difficult to burn, resistant to temperature changes and vibration, does not rot, and has the ability to mild itself to the contour of the container it is put into, such as the neck of a wine bottle.

What an extraordinary tree! Cork oaks are the only trees in the world from which you could strip an entire piece of bark like this without killing it. Every tree this size yields sufficient bark to produce 4,000 corks, and this harvest provides employment for at least 60,000 Portuguese workers.

the stripping itself is gruelling work. Using special wedge-shape axes, workers peel 4-foot planks from the bark during the intense summer heat when the tree’s sap is circulating, making it possible to pry off the bark. Once the bark is stripped off, it is left outdoors to season and dry for up to a year.