Updated: Apr 7
First Printed in Hong Kong Discovery Vol.83 初載於《野外動向》第83期
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理解優質德國葡萄酒⼀直以來並不容易，這跟德國傳統以葡萄收成天然含糖量作分級標準不無 關係。始創於1971年的Prädikats分級標準，把優質德國葡萄酒根據六個不同程度的含糖量（於 收成後及酒精發酵前無進⾏⼈⼯補糖的情況下量度），與歐洲其他釀酒國以葡萄⽥質素作分級 標準的做法迥異，亦不免導致酒客潛意識下把德國葡萄酒以甜度分類，這個情況於葡萄酒⽂化 發展中的地區更為常⾒。過往數⼗年，葡萄酒世界對於來⾃單⼀葡萄⽥的作品愈加喜愛。以單 ⼀葡萄⽥分類的經典酒區例⼦，不可不提法國勃⾉地。今⽇，單⼀葡萄⽥分類常⾒於新舊世界 酒區，單⼀葡萄⽥的概念與酒評家及酒客常掛⼝邊的酒詞「Terroir」（⾵⼟）早已拉上緊密關 係，產⾃單⼀葡萄⽥的作品已被認定為最能表達優秀⾵⼟特⾊的葡萄酒。
有⾒葡萄酒世界越來越著重葡萄的收成來源，德國精英酒莊組織（VDP）於2002年開始於每個 分區中界別哪些⽥屬頂級葡萄⽥，結果包括個別單⼀葡萄⽥或群組。產⾃這些亮點頂級葡萄⽥ 的葡萄酒，只要收成量不超過每公頃50百升，且完成品的餘糖量不超過每公升9克（也就是⼤ 家熟識的dry style乾型葡萄酒），並可以把這些酒以頂級葡萄⽥出品對外發售。這無疑牽起了 ⼀股追捧乾型葡萄酒的熱潮。多加⼀個為乾型葡萄酒⽽設的單層分級，理論上簡單，但德國不
同產區卻決定以不同名字稱呼葡萄⽥：Rheingau區的是Erstes Gewächs，Mosel區的是Erste Lage，餘下地區則叫Grosse Gewächs。
還好，2006年，德國精英酒莊組織統⼀了頂級葡萄⽥與不同地區採⽤不同叫法的做法，整個德 國的頂級⽥以後喚作 Erste Lage。同時，完成品的餘糖量不再是使⽤頂級葡萄⽥名稱的限制。 也就是說，德國傳統餘糖量⾼於每公升9克的葡萄酒，只要屬於傳統制度Prädikats中第⼆級 Spatles或以上，產⾃頂級⽥且產量少於每公頃50百升，可同時標上傳統制分級及頂級⽥名。 ⼀切清晰了卻⼜不免還是有點拖泥帶⽔，頂級葡萄⽥產出的乾型葡萄酒保存了專屬名稱，來⾃ Rheingau的叫Erstes Gewächs，餘下產區的叫Grosses Gewächs。同年，⼀個以勃⾉地葡萄 ⽥質素分級為基礎的制度初現鄒形。
2006年始，德國精英酒莊組織開始推⾏⼀個三級葡萄⽥分級制，最⾼級的葡萄⽥稱為Erste Lage，次級稱為Klassierte Lage/ Ortswein/ Terroirwein，基本級稱為Gutsweine（也就是⼤ 部分組織酒莊成員⽤來產出招牌酒的葡萄⽥）。
2012年，德國精英酒莊組織把這個三級制擴增 為四級制，並以勃⾉地的質素⽔平作主要參考指標。 新制度統⼀了頂級葡萄⽥的名稱為Grosse Lage（無論完成品是乾型還是傳統制下的各種天然 甜型葡萄酒），來⾃這些⽥的乾型的葡萄酒繼續保留Grosse Gewächs 的稱號。次級的相等於 勃⾉地的⼀級⽥，稱為Erste Lage，繼⽽是村庄級葡萄酒Ortswein，最基本級相等於勃⾉地區 區域酒，稱為Gutsweine。新制度引⽤的這⼀堆新詞�，無疑為德國酒標帶來史無前例之多的 專⽤名詞。以德國精英酒莊組織成員釀造的⼀款產⾃頂級⽥的葡萄酒為例，在所有基本資訊如 酒精度、年份等以外，還可以標上（⼀）酒莊名稱、（⼆）傳統制下相應甜度分級，乾型的話 則為Grosse Gewächs、（三）葡萄⽥等級（最⾼級即係Grosse Lage）、（四）葡萄⽥名稱
、（五）所屬酒莊組織名稱（亦即VDP）、（六）葡萄品種、（七）⼗三個細分酒區之⼀的地 名。七個額外資訊基本上全以德⽂表達，對於德⽂並⾮⺟語的酒客來講不易掌握。天然甜度與 葡萄⽥質素分級之間難捨難擇，造成了今天⼀班精英酒莊出產的德國優質葡萄酒命名更⾒複雜 。德國葡萄酒站在分叉路上，傳統和與時並進之間該如何選擇及融和？
假如葡萄⽥質素分級是⾸要重點，哪有簡化德國葡萄酒標⽰法定的相應天然甜度等級的⽅法嗎 ？由三⼗多個來⾃全球各地，釀造蕾絲玲⽩酒的成員酒莊組成的國際蕾絲玲協會（IRF），創⽴並註冊了「蕾絲玲味道指南」（Riesling Taste Profile），以單綫性圖表標⽰葡萄酒的甜度，⼀ ⺫了然。現時，已有幾家⾼端德國葡萄酒莊參與成為成員，包括Schloss Johannisberg， Weingut St. Urbans-Hof 及 Dr. Loosen的美國進⼝商分公司 – Loosen Bros. Co加⼊這個新穎破格的團體。這指南固然不錯，可惜沒可能取代德國傳統Prädikats制度。傳統制的六個分級， 除了代表不同程度的天然含糖量外，還包含其他資訊。例如，標有Trockenbeerenauslese的 優質葡萄酒除含有六個等級中最⾼的天然含糖量外，還代表葡萄顆粒⽔份近乎抽亁（Trocken ），採收時酒農逐⼀顆粒（beeren）⼿採（auslese）。歸乎現實，改變⼀個成⽴了逾40年的 法律制度，⼤概只會牽連額外數⼗年才了結的爭辯。如是者，哪有辦法簡化德國葡萄⽥名嗎？ 傳統上，德國單⼀葡萄⽥（Einzellage）的名字常與所在的⼩鎮或村莊名字連在⼀起，亦因如 此，德國葡萄⽥的名字往往較全球其他酒區（也許只有勃⾉地除外）冗⻑三倍以上，例如 Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr。
近⽇某些酒莊選擇簡化⽥名，省去⼩鎮或村莊名字，以 Weingüter Wegeler 為例，他家來⾃Bernkasteler Doctor葡萄⽥的酒，只標上「Doctor」， 來⾃Wehlener Sonnenuhr的只標上「Sonnenuhr」。這做法好處在於縮短德國葡萄⽥名，也 把酒客的注意⼒引到葡萄⽥名字的背後含義及故事，⽽⾮側重於傳統甜度制六個分級的意思。 有好處⾃是也有不好的地⽅，名叫「Sonnenuhr」的葡萄⽥不只⼀塊，散落在不同城鎮及村莊 的「Sonnenuhr」各有不同特⾊，單獨使⽤葡萄⽥名難免埋沒了不同地理位置的同名⽥的個性 分別。
德國優質葡萄酒的未來，有可能雙向強調天然含糖量及葡萄⽥質素，同時不過份複雜化現有分 級制度嗎？2002年德國精英酒莊組織開始於每個產區界定頂級葡萄⽥的時候，由30個Mosel區 頂級葡萄酒莊組成的Grosser Ring VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer發出了⼀份官⽅聯合聲明，回應當 年只限使⽤於乾型葡萄酒釀造的新分級制度。那份聲明倡議為乾型德國葡萄酒訂⽴⼀個⼆級制
：頂級葡萄⽥可於酒標上明列葡萄⽥名，其他的分類為「招牌酒」（Gutsriesling），酒標上只 標有酒莊名稱和葡萄品種。這個做法⼀⽅⾯保留了傳統制Prädikats六個分級全屬較優越葡萄⽥ 產出的作品的地位，同時避免⼀些中等質素葡萄⽥過份曝光，對推廣葡萄酒質素幫助不⼤之餘 ，且使德國葡萄酒更難學習和掌握。2002年由德國精英酒莊組織把開始的頂級葡萄⽥界定計劃 ，間接造成⼀眾頂級葡萄⽥的乾型葡萄酒，表⾯上質素有若超越傳統制度的產出。⼗年後，德 國精英酒莊組織把新制乾型和傳統制的甜型葡萄酒全數納⼊勃⾉地葡萄⽥質素分級制模型。這 可以說是⼀個具前瞻性的決定，畢竟德國近年乾型葡萄酒產量⼀直增加，不少酒莊釀造多於⼀ 款頂級葡萄⽥乾型葡萄酒及基本「招牌酒」，額外分級也許有助定義兩極之間的葡萄酒質素。 無可否認的是，德國葡萄酒分級還是滯留於⼀個簡化變繁化的階段，諸多歷史遺留下來的例外 依然⽣效。
尋找⼀個簡單且容易理解的德國酒標實在不是⼀件易事，尤其是來⾃這個釀酒⼤國的優質葡萄 酒。這源⾃歷史累積下來的決定，另加⾏業協會現欲跟隨全球葡萄酒分級⼤勢的希望。再多數 ⼗年吧，我們將可⾒今⽇德國精英葡萄酒莊組織訂⽴的葡萄⽥質素分級新制與法定天然含糖量 傳統分級制，兩者雙管⿑下的情況下，德國葡萄酒市場⾵貌將如何蛻變。還好，制度怎樣變更 或互動也好，各個德國酒莊還是每年會產出從爽朗清新⾄蜜餞沁甜的葡萄酒。我們⼀班酒客也 就正好⼀邊看這場分級秀，⼀邊享受這些美酒。加點詩意，更有意思。
The understanding of German quality wines has long been shrouded by the wine country’s longstanding natural sugar-oriented classification. Implemented since 1971, Prädikatswein categorizes quality wines by their progressive natural sugar level (must weight at harvest without chaptalization i.e. addition of artificial sugars before fermentation), differing much against the site-oriented classification in rest of Europe and inevitably led wine drinkers, especially those from emerging markets, to associate and differentiate German wines by their level of sweetness. Over past few decades, the wine world has grown to become increasingly fond of the concept of Single Vineyard, a system that comes classically from Burgundy and becomes popular among both New and Old World wine regions nowadays. At present, Single Vineyard becomes synonymous to the expression of the best terroir, another much celebrated catchphrase among wine critics and consumers.
Recognizing the growing emphasis on source of grapes, Germany’s leading fine wine trade association Verband Deustcher Prädikatsweinguter (VDP) introduced Grand Cru identification in 2002. Certain individual vineyards (German: Einzellagen) or part of those individual vineyards are identified in each region as their Grand Cru sites. Provided that wines from these sites are produced in accordance with several principles i.e. sites not exceeding a maximum yield of 50hl/ha, minimum must weight is equivalent to a Spätlese wine but fermented dry such that it contains no more than 9g/L residual sugar in final product, these wines are classified as “Grand Cru” wines. The naming of “Grand Cru” in 2002 is undeniably confusing: in Rheingau, dry wines from these sites may put Erstes Gewächs on their labels; whereas in Mosel fruity wines from these sites can put Erste Lage on their labels; for the rest of Germany they followed Rheingau’s model but the naming changed to Grosses Gewächs.
Thankfully, in 2006, VDP resolved the confusing region and style-specific naming and decided that all Grand Cru sites in Germany be called “Erste Lage”. Regardless of their natural sugar level at harvest, all wines are now qualified instead of just dry wines. The legacy of giving dry wines extra focus remained, with dry wines from this classified group of top vineyards continued to be called Erstes Gewächs in Rheingau, and Grosse Gewächs for all other regions. It was also in 2006 when we saw initial reconciliation of the traditional natural sugar-driven Prädikatswein classification (from Spätlese level onwards) and the new site quality-driven vineyard classification. Co-existence of Prädikats terms (e.g. Spätlese) and vineyard quality terms (e.g. Erste Lage) is made possible. It was also in that same year when VDP sowed the seed for the introduction of a comprehensive Burgundian vineyard classification model.
Since 2006, VDP ran a three-tier vineyard classification system where the best vineyards that fit with the association’s viticultural and vinification requirements were generally named Erste Lage, those classified as superior sites were termed Klassierte Lage/ Ortswein/ Terroirwein and vineyards where most VDP member estates produced their house wines were called Gutsweine.
In 2012, VDP took things one-step further and modified the 2006 pyramid to one that boasts four site-specific quality tiers, benchmarking against the Burgundian system. The new system standardizes the naming of wines from Grand Cru sites as Grosse Gewächs (so long as they are dry), and the sites themselves are called Grosse Lage (applicable to both dry and naturally sweet Prädikats products). Right beneath the top echeleon, there is Erste Lage, which can be regarded as the same as Premier Cru in Burgundy, Ortswein that is supposedly equivalent to the quality of Villages Wine in Burgundy, and lastly Gutswein, the generic quality wine category.
Putting aside all these technical terms, the combined impact of all these changes in German wine scene is that now more than ever, a German wine label may virtually bear more German terminologies than any point in history. For a topmost quality German wine from a member winery of VDP, it may put, among all else basic information such as vintage, alcohol level and so on that you find on a wine label: (a) the name of the winery, (b) the Prädikat level if it is naturally sweet, or Grosse Gewächs if it is a dry wine, (c) the quality level of its vineyard which is “Grosse Lage”, (d) the name of the vineyard, (e) the name of association that it belongs to which is VDP, (f) the grape variety, (g) one of the 13 wine regions it belong to. Seven pieces of core information in a language foreign to all except Germans is far from great help for anyone who wishes to better understand German wines. That seems to be the unfortunate result as German wineries try to go down two rabbit holes in one time. Between the traditional Prädikats system recognized by German law and the new site quality-specific classification system created and abided by VDP and its members, where are German quality wines going?
The question is, if emphasis on vineyard is the overarching goal of classification, is there a way to simplify the legally required way for German wine producers to communicate the natural sugar level on a wine label? International Riesling Foundation (IRF), founded by 30 different member wineries from around the world which produce Riesling wines, very much Germany’s national white grape variety, fathered a simple yet creative way to tell consumers what taste to expect from a bottle of Riesling. The “Riesling Taste Profile” is essentially a graphical scale that offers consumers a quick reading on how dry or sweet the wine is. At present, a few prominent German Riesling producers such as Schloss Johannisberg, Weingut St. Urbans-Hof and the USA wine importing arm of Dr. Loosen – Loosen Bros. Co, are members of this rather avant-garde Riesling promotion body. This scale does help, but in no way can it (nor has the organization sought to) substitute the Prädikats – since the Prädikats convey more information than just natural sugar level in its terms. For example, “Trockenbeerenauslese” refers not only a wine with the highest natural sugar level upon harvest, it also indicates that the berries are dried out (trocken) usually by noble rot and individual berries (“beeren”) instead of bunches are selected and picked (“auslese”) by hand at harvest. Realistically speaking, to see changes of any sort implemented to an over 40-year-old established legal classification very much implies a lengthy debate that might take several decades to end.
Let’s then turn to see whether simplifying vineyard names might effectively offer some form of help to eager non-German-speaking German wine fans. Traditionally, an individual German vineyard (German: Einzellage) is always concatenated with the name of the town or village (German: Bereich) when spelt out on a label, resulting in the creation of great vineyard names that almost always take at least 3 times longer than any other vineyard names (except perhaps Burgundy) to enunciate properly: take Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr as an example. Recently there seems to be a trend for top producers to go simple by featuring just the vineyard name prominently on the label, for example Weingüter Wegeler chooses to simply put “Doctor” on its Bernkasteler Doctor wines and “Sonnenuhr” on its Wehlener Sonnenuhr wines. On the up side, this makes German wine names less intimidating and may even put focus on the meanings and stories behind vineyard names, an aspect that has long been downplayed by emphasis on the meanings of various Prädikats level. On the down side, take “Sonnenuhr” as an example, the existence of multiple “Sonnenuhr” vineyards located in different towns and villages, which currently are distinguished on a label by “virtue” of the tradition of concatenation, might become less obvious.
Is there a possible future for Germany to emphasize and classify her wines dually on natural sugar level and vineyard quality without making it all the more complicated for wine consumers? Back in 2002, the Grosser Ring VDP Mosel Saar-Ruwer, a group of 30 venerable Mosel producers, released an official response to the minted VDP Grand Cru identification system (which, since they restricted mention of Grand Cru sites for wines less than 9g/L residual sugar, this system dealt only with dry wine production). The statement promoted a two-tier quality classification for dry such that only wines from top vineyard sites would make a mention of the vineyard names on the label, whilst the rest were to be classified as Estate Riesling (German: Gutsriesling), where only the estate name and grape variety are placed on the label. This, according to the Grosser Ring, effectively helped prevent proliferation of mentioning of mid-level vineyards whilst preserving the status of all Prädikatswein as products from superior vineyard sites. This is nonetheless a way to embrace the growth in popularity of dry wines whilst preserving Germany’s tradition in producing high quality naturally sweet wine. 10 years later, VDP sought to reconcile the creation of a class of “Super Prädikat” dry wine by including all Prädikatswein production under the new Burgundian model of vineyard classification (except for the lowest level Gutsweine). This might possibly be a proactive response to increasing dry wine production in Germany where each winery may produce more than just one premium and one Estate Riesling, but in no ways is it a thoughtful attempt to simplify understanding of German wines for consumers. The hard, cold fact remains that Germany has yet to find a way to evolve its leading wine classification systems by streamlining not extension, best eliminating exceptions and standardizing names for dry and sweet wines on the way. (e.g. the 2012 classification remained favorable towards calling a dry wine from Grosse Lage a Grosse Gewächs, and a naturally sweet wine from same vineyard a Grosse Lage.)
Finding a simple, easy-to-comprehend German wine label is, arguably, no easy task and is especially not usual among the finest wines offered by this great wine country, a result traditionally inherited from historical decisions; and now a wish to conform to the prevailing emphasis on terroir. It will most probably take another couple decades until we see how this parallel operation of compulsory classification by natural sugar levels and VDP member-only classification by vineyard quality changes the German wine scene. Lucky for us drinkers, Germany will keep producing beautiful wines, from the driest to the sweetest, every year until then as we continue to watch the drama unfold, perhaps best adding a light
hearted touch of poetry to it.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken