German wine labelling has been given a chance to clean up its act but this is being resisted in some quarters. Please express your feelings about this, as suggested below.
Almost 50 years after the introduction of an ill-conceived new wine law in 1971, the German parliament will get together in the coming months to discuss proposals for a much-needed reform, which would, I hope, see a change of emphasis from sugar content of the must to classification of origin as the real measure of quality.
There has obviously been major resistance to this new approach by the large players in the market, who have vast amounts of plonk to shift and would like to continue embellishing these products with misleading pretences of provenance (Grosslage names).
After long and tough wrangling, a compromise seemed to have been achieved between the smaller, quality-oriented growers and the mass producers to change the designation of the offending Grosslagen, large conglomerates of vineyards with names that give the misleading impression that they are individual sites in reputable communes. They could keep their invented names, but would have to replace the appellation of the commune with the designation 'Region'. Thus, for instance, the name of the Grosslage Piesporter Michelsberg would be changed to Region Michelsberg.
At first, the board of the general producers’ regional associations appeared to have accepted this proposal, but a recent standardised letter sent to members of parliament suggests otherwise. In this letter the large co-operatives lobby to continue with present practice for another 10 years, with a further period of grace of five more years. Even more cynical is an appeal by the large bottling merchants, who agree to dropping the commune name from their cash cows, but propose using just the made-up site name instead without the add-on 'Region'.
To the uninitiated, this could imply that Michelsberg or Gutes Domtal are on level terms with Morstein, Juffer Sonnenuhr or Scharzhofberger, genuine single-vineyard names that appear on the labels of Grosse Gewächse, some of Germany's finest wines. It is all too obvious that the schemers behind this proposal have spent all their energy on a blatant attempt to deceive consumers and none of it on providing them with correct information.
The VDP association of most of the top wine estates is appealing to wine lovers to sign a petition to their member of parliament to block this retrograde proposal. I hope that this effort could also be supported by the international wine community. Let's prevent Michelsberg from being mistaken as the German quality equivalent of Montrachet.
Please write to your German ambassador, suggests Michael.
Our picture of the Mosel shows the difference between the sort of flat, fertile land that provides grapes for Grosslage wines and the slopes that have been carefully classified as single vineyards.