It had been in the making for a while, but eventually the largest reform of the German laws on wine law since the introduction of the Prädikatswein system in 1969 and the new version in 1971 materialized. For decades, ripeness was (almost) all that mattered and the degrees Oechsle were the foundation of the German classification. Last year then, when the new laws came into force, this has changed and so should the situation for German wine. For years, producers and merchants complained that the German system had led to the loss of market shares and seen local producers falling behind in face of growing competition from both the Old and the New World.
Nothing less the reform is supposed to achieve. At the same time, it aims to solve another German riddle and render the system more comprehensible. Various categories and complex terminology could test even experts and leave consumers puzzled in front of the shelf.
In a recent article in the German Journal of Agricultural Policy and Agriculture (Zeitschrift für Agrarpolitik und Landwirtschaft), I took a closer look at the reform and thought to show that the reasons why Germany has lost more and more ground in international comparison are more complex than the existing wine law’s focus on ripeness of grapes and sugar levels . The article outlines the historical and current legal situation as well as the essential changes to the Wine Act and the Wine Ordinance, which together form the basis of German wine law. I evaluated the input from various stakeholders and market participants during the legislative process. On this basis, I have also summarized and analyzed the development of the German wine market with regard to production and vineyard surface, consumer behaviour over the years, export stats and more, and try to show how it all fits together. It also emphasizes that adapting the Roman system of quality pyramids alone will not be sufficient to turn the Germans’ fortunes and what could be done to do so. You can find all this and more here (though mostly in German)!