Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Grand Ceremony in the Berlin Cathedral on the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the VDP - the Elite Winemakers of Germany

Pictures: VDP President Steffen Christman with spouse and Member of the Board Armin Diel with spouse at the reception preceding the official ceremony in the Berlin Cathedral, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the VDP

Germany’s Prädikat Wine Estates – the members of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Praedikatsweingueter) - celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the VDP in 2010 in Germany’s Capital Berlin during September 4 to 6, 2010. I was happy and proud to participate. There were a number of events, but at the center was the official ceremony in the Berlin Cathedral, preceded by a reception at the Neues Museum and followed by a birthday party in Berlin’s top restaurant Gendarmerie.

I have given a run-down of the whole series of events here and have reported in more detail on the event: 70 Galleries - 200 Winemakers - 1000 Wines here.

This posting deals in more detail with the official ceremony in the Berlin Cathedral and the preceding reception as well as the birthday party following the official ceremony.


The VDP is the world’s oldest association of wine estates in the world. In fact, as Jancis Robinson said in her speech in the Berlin Cathedral, it is the only one of its kind worldwide. No other country has a national organization of the top wine makers of the entire country.

In 1910, four regional wine-growers’ associations joined forces to form the Verband Deutscher Naturweinversteigerer (i.e. estates that sold their “natural” [unchaptalized] wines at auction). These organizations – from the Rheingau and Rheinhessen, founded in 1897 and 1900, respectively, and their counterparts in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and Pfalz regions, both founded in 1908 – were the forerunners of today’s VDP. At this time, fine German wines enjoyed a heyday. They were among the most expensive wines, on the tables of imperial houses as well as leading hotels and restaurants.

Throughout the past century, the quality-driven goals and strict standards of the VDP have played no small part in shaping the viticultural and winemaking practices in Germany. With their stringent statutes and their establishment of a German vineyard classification, the 200 members of the VDP have served as role models and justifiably can be viewed as the vanguard of the nation’s producers of top-quality wines.

Germany’s prime white wine variety, Riesling, has long been the grape of choice for VDP members. Other, traditional varietals are also cultivated, e.g. the ancient white varietal Silvaner (particularly in Franken and Rheinhessen), and members of the Pinot family, including Germany’s all-important red wine grape, Spätburgunder , and the white wine grapes, Weiss- and Grauburgunder (Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, respectively).

The Reception

An open air reception in front of the historical Neues Museum and vis a vis the Berlin Cathedral preceded the official ceremony in the Berlin Cathedral. Of course, the VDP winemakers served Sekt. A theme that came up again and again is that 100 years ago, fine German wine was more expensive than for example the fine Bordeaux wines. The same is true for German sparklers, which is called Sekt in Germany. In fact, many Champagne Houses were founded by Germans, like Bollinger, Mumm, two name two. When the remuage method was invented by the Champagne House Veuve Cliquot, it was under the leadership of Veuve Cliquot’s cellar master, the German Anton Mueller.

Pictures: Same group - different perspectives: Alf Ewald, winemaker at Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung, Peter Winter, owner of Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung, Annette Schiller, Christian G.E. Schiller and Madeleine Jakits, editor-in-chief of the leading German food and wine journal Der Feinschmecker

German Sekt

Germany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world, which is not well known around the world. Germans drink lot of sparkling wines, although in general less quality-conscious than the French. One out of four bottles of sparkling wine is consumed in Germany, roughly 500 million bottles.

Sekt is made in all German wine regions, both in the méthode traditionnelle and charmat method. There are three groups of Sekt makers: (i) large and (ii) smaller Sekt houses, who only make Sekt and (iii) winemakers, who make predominantly wine, but complement their wine selection by a few Sekts. The Sekts produced by large Sekt estates tend to be in the demy-sweet and sweet range, while the Sekts of smaller estates and the wine makers are mostly in the brut and extra brut range.

Picture: German Minister of Economy Rainer Bruederle

The Official Ceremony in the Berlin Cathedral

The program in the Berlin Cathedral featured speeches by VDP President Christmann, Economic Minister Bruederle and Janics Robinson, and an avant-garde theater performance of the group Weinkoerper, marking the turning point of the VDP as it embarks on its next century, as well as various musical performances, culminating in Ludwig van Beethoven’s 4th movement of the 9th Symphony - Ode an die Freude.

Pictures: Orchester Corde Berlin and Berliner Oratorienchor, Jancis Robinson and Weinkoerper Ensemble

Birthday Party at the Gendarmerie

The day ended with a birthday party in the packed Restaurant Gendarmerie with plenty of outstanding wines from VDP winemakers.

Picture: With Peter Jakob Kuehn (Weingut Kuehn), Lotte Pfeffer-Mueller (Weingut Brueder Dr. Becker) and Clemens Busch (Weingut Clemens Busch) in the public bus from the Cathedral to the Gendarmerie

Pictures from top to bottom: The Gendarmerie, Georg Prinz zu Lippe (Weingut Poschwitz - Prinz zu Lippe) with Annette Schiller, Peter Jakob Kuehn with spouse and Annette Schiller, Jancis Robinson with Annette Schiller

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