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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Neil Beckett

The VDP (Die Prdikatsweingter), the association of 199 leading German estates, including from this year Mller-Catoir in the Pfalz, is making slow but steady progress with the classification system it adopted in 2001, according to president Prinz Michael zu Salm-Salm. Speaking in Berlin on 4 September, the day before the first large showing of the 2003 Great Growths' - known as Erste Lage in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erstes Gewchs in the Rheingau and Grosses Gewchs in other regions, and including lusciously sweet wines' of Auslese level and above - the prince did not disguise the difficulties still facing the new system, especially in terms of government recognition. Answering a question as to why some of the most famous vineyards in the Mosel, such as Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr, were not yet part of the system, Salm-Salm explained that the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer chapter of the VDP had been the last to subscribe, submitting its list of vineyards only in the the second half of 2003, and that all members there had been able to vote on which vineyards were included. He suggested that one reason for the surprising omissions was that VDP members were reluctant to recognise sites where there were growers who are not participating in the system. When wine writer Stephen Brook questioned the wisdom of allowing a Great Growth' and a wine from a classified site' (the second of the three levels) to share the same vineyard name, Salm-Salm agreed that this could be confusing, but insisted that most members were opposed to the practice, accepting that where the name was used for the top wine, it should not be used for any other. The regional chapters of the VDP in the Rheinhessen and the Pfalz have already prohibited this twin usage. On a less positive note, Salm-Salm dismissed as bloody nonsense' the government regulations which (except in the Rheingau) continue to ban any mention of Erste Lage or Grosses Gewchs on the label, forcing VDP members to resort to a specially designed embossed logo on the bottle. He also expressed frustration that moves towards the new system by the Deutsches Weininstitut, under an initiative entitled Vision 2020, have been stalled by growers opposed to the new philosophy of terroir.