German Wine Classification

The German wine industry uses a classification system that is the source of great intrigue and also commonly confusion. German wine law denotes four regulated categories of wine made in Germany: deutscher wein, landwein, qualitätswein, and prädikatswein. Each category is subject to strict requirements and close scrutiny. Because the German wine categories arrange themselves in a kind of order (even the name in German, “qualitätstufen,” means “quality levels”), it is a common misunderstanding to think that a wine of a higher category is usually a higher quality wine. That is true with regard to landwein and deutscher wein, but it is much more accurate to consider the categories qualitätswein and prädikatswein as nothing more than information the consumer can use to learn about the wine or its style. After all, the best classified dry VDP wines must be considered qualitätswein.

Few American wine drinkers have even heard of German landwein or deutscher wein because they are not wines of protected designation of origin and seldom, if ever, imported. They account for only about 2 - 3.5% of German wine produced each year. The vast majority of German wine is qualitätswein and prädikatswein.