Gewann / Katasterlage are now allowed on the wine label in Rheinland-Pfalz. What is it? What does it means for the German wine lover? Here the key facts.
The Rhineland-Palatinate has passed a law which, in essence (to make things simple) allows to put the equivalent of the Lieu-Dit on the labels. This is a response to the fact that some single-vineyard designed in 1971 are of quite varied quality (i.e. inhomogeneous), to say the least. The Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter (VDP) and some parts of the wine press hailed this change in the German wine law as a big step forward.
Already today, many "Lieu-Dit" names are in use and tolerated by the public authorities. This includes:
Only names which include the word “Fels” or “Berg” were not even tolerated so far. This proved an issue for a few winemakers “only”, notably for Florian Lauer from Weingut Peter Lauer and Manfred Loch from Weinhof Herrenberg. Except for those facing the issue of Florian Lauer, why bother having a name registered especially as it entails quite some administrative burden (separate recording in the cellar books, etc.)?
Many of the names that winemakers would like to use because they could have some appeal do not qualify as Lieu-Dit or the Lieu-Dit part of them is only microscopic (this may be resolved though, more on this as it will unfold).
It is therefore not obvious that the Gewann / Katasterlage will change much in the Mosel in practice.
However, there is a risk looming in this law and this is that winemakers will "abuse" this possibility to have sub-plots registered by creating phony monopole vineyard sites (by having a name registered in which only they have vines), irrespective if the said parcel is of particular quality or not. As there is no regulative body foreseen in the law to check on quality and relevance of the proposed new sites, this could be a disaster for the region as no one would be apple to see the forest for the trees if hundreds of these names would flourish.
In this context, the comment by the VDP, hailing the principle “the smaller the origin, the better the wine”, besides being plain wrong (the smallest parcel within "a potato field" remains to our knowledge "a potato field"), does not make us feel comfortable.
So, in practice:
A detailed explanation of Katasterlage and Gewann is provided in a background article published in the Mosel Fine Wines Issue No 24 (Oct 2014).
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