Erstes Gewächs

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Erstes Gewächs, designates dry wines from a limited number of ostensibly top sites in the rheingau and hessische bergstrasse. Quality-conscious Rheingau growers introduced this term in the 1990s to refer to their top dry wines from classic grape varieties, which they then bottled with the same double Romanesque arch insignia as used for charta bottlings. Their lobbying resulted in the 1999 recognition of this category by the German state of Hessen and in its being permitted on labels. Given this protection of ‘Erstes Gewächs’ under the laws of a single state, the vdp growers’ association elected to promote the term grosses gewächs, utilizing it in a very similar way, albeit without any state or national legal recognition. In 2013 it was agreed within the VDP that, to avoid confusion about the association’s prestige category of dry wine, its Rheingau members would henceforth replace the designation ‘Erstes Gewächs’ with ‘Grosses Gewächs’ (signified on bottles by a logo and the initials ‘GG’), which also meant adopting the stricter limits on residual sugar that defined the latter. Rheingau growers who are not members of the VDP continue to use the legally protected term Erstes Gewächs.