How To Read a Wine Label

To learn more about German wine labels, feel free to scroll over this wine label for a description of each section.

1. Producer vs. Bottler

Name of producer or estate, in this case the producer is Winzer Bacchus.

2. Vintage

The vintage is the year the grapes were harvested. Wine is an agricultural product and consequently very dependent on the weather which in Germany, unlike more southerly climates, can be extremely variable.

3. Grape variety

The grape variety used to make a wine is the single most influential factor determining its taste. Different grapes have different flavors, just like different fruits have different flavors. For example: Riesling is a very fruit-driven grape variety providing a fine acidity. Gewürztraminer has very floral, perfumed flavors reminiscent of rose petals while Silvaner is lower in acidity and less floral, rather plain.

4. Ripeness categories

The ripeness categories are Deutscher Wein (formerly Tafelwein), Deutscher Landwein, Qualitätswein and Qualitätswein mit Prädikat. The latter is further divided into the ripeness levels Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauselese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. More information can be found on the Ripeness Categories page.

5. Level of dryness

The taste/style or level of dryness of a wine depends on the cellar master and is determined in the cellar by the winemaker; it is totally independent of the grape. More information can be found here.

6. Village and vineyard

The often difficult to pronounce names on the label indicate the village where the vineyard is located (identified by the -er suffix) followed by another name (often ending in -berg [=mountain, slope] indicating the vineyard site. Proprietary names like "Liebfraumilch" and "Bishop of Riesling" have no vineyard designation, they are a blend of wines from several vineyards.

7. Appellation of origin - Wine Growing region

To identify the region compare with the following list of the 13 German wine growing regions: Ahr, Mittelrhein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Nahe, Pfalz, Rheinhessen, Franken, Hessische Bergstrasse, Württemberg, Baden, Saale/Unstrut, Sachsen.

8. Producer vs. Bottler

There are about 100,000 grape growers in Germany, yet only about one fourth as many wine producers. If the label indicates "Erzeugerabfüllung" (estate bottled), it assures you that the grapes were grown and the wine was produced by one and the same grower or cooperative of growers (Winzergenossenschaft). As an alternative to "Erzeugerabfüllung," estates and growers which grow, produce, and bottle their own wine can use the term "Gutsabfüllung" on the label. The grower or collective group of growers is responsible for and guarantees the quality of the wine. Sometimes the bottlers or shipper will assume responsibility and will be identified on the label as "Abfüller."

9. Ripeness categories

The ripeness categories are Deutscher Wein (formerly Tafelwein), Deutscher Landwein, Qualitätswein and Qualitätswein mit Prädikat. The latter is further divided into the ripeness levels Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauselese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. More about that on our Ripeness category page.

10. Ap - number

The AP NR. or "Amtliche Prüfnummer," meaning "official approval number" identifies the wine and is required for all qba and qmp wines. It consists of several blocks of numbers identifying the wine like:     5    169   878   0009 93

  • 5 stands for the testing center, where the wine was approved
  • 169 stands for the village in which the winery is located that produced the wine
  • 878 is the code number for the winery
  • 0009 93 reflects, this is the 9th wine tested in the year 1993 (no necessary relation to the vintage of the wine but most often the year after the vintage)