Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Grosslagen are collective vineyard sites delimited by the 1971 german wine law (and under no circumstances to be confused with the superior class of single vineyard sites defined by the VDP as grosse lagen). Sometimes co-opting a traditional place name but often made up for the occasion, a Grosslage designation is conjoined to the name of a particular wine village, but typically covers vineyards (each officially known as an einzellage) in far-flung and far less prestigious villages, the thinly disguised intent being, by means of the German labelling template village+vineyard, to trade on the prestige earned by sites outside the Grosslage. Thus, Niersteiner Gutes Domtal, in fact, refers to vast acreage spread across 15 disparate villages and 32 Einzellagen of which a mere one—tiny and obscure—happens to be within the communal limits of the Rheinhessen’s justly famous wine village Nierstein. Another notorious example is Piesporter Michelsberg in the Mosel. A Wiltinger Scharzberg Grosslage was even registered to trade deceptively on the prestige of the Saar’s famed Scharzhofberg vineyard. Grosslage names are frequently applied to blends of lesser grapes in areas best-known for their fine Rieslings. Thankfully, the use of Grosslage designations has greatly diminished since the 1990s and is largely confined to inexpensive wines destined for sales in supermarkets. A very few Grosslage names—most notably Bernkasteler Badstube—are widely used even by the most quality-conscious among growers, because they incorporate solely high-quality sites, many of whose individual names have never been well-known.