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Australian wine classification

The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (AWBC) provides strategic support to the Australian wine sector. It is an Australian Government provide strategic support to the Australian wine sector. It is an Australian Government statutory authority directed by a board appointed by the federal Minister for wine. Australian wines are classified into four categories.

Brand Champions

- are the engine room of Australia's wine offering; ambitious but accessible main stream wines that carry the flag for us at home and in international markets.  This is where the story began for Australian producers selling to the world, and where the journey often begins for consumers newly introduced to wine and keen to find out about what the best New World wines have to offer.

Generation Next

- are made by winemakers who innovate wine styles with creative blending. Generation Next wines are also made with some new international grape varieties that are being planted in wine regions whose terroir is suited for growing these respective varieties well. These wines are geared toward an audience who drink primarily for the social occasion rather than for specific wine attributes. While regional identity is not as dogmatic with this wine category, there is still an interconnection of terroir and grape in that today’s Australian vine growers are planting varieties like Tempranillo and Sangiovese in soils that the growers know will support this new growth. 

Regional Heroes

- are wines that are produced in one specific region. These wines are marketed to the public with specific interest in the correlation between the area they are produced and the grape variety or wine style. Some examples include Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Hunter Valley Semillon, Eden Valley Riesling, Chardonnay from Margaret River or Yarra Yarra, spicy style Shiraz from the Grampians, and Grenache/Syrah blending from McLaren Vale. 

Landmark Australia

- come from highly distinctive soils within micro climates conducive to producing some of the finest wines. The vines are low-yielding and the wines are typically made from the varieties classic for their respective regions. The wines have high intensity in flavor concentration. These are typically based on “regional heroes” as well as on endorsements by wine writers who give high ratings. Some examples include Henry’s Drive Shiraz Padthaway Reserve, Wolf Blass Shiraz/Cabernet blend from South Australia, Leeuwin Chardonnay Margaret River, and Ninth Island Pinot Noir Tasmania.

 

Austrian wine classification

Generally speaking, the classifications used for Austrian wines represent different “quality designations”. They range from Tafelwein (table wine) to Trockenbeerenauslese (really sweet wine), with many in between.

When describing why a wine falls into a certain category in terms of its technical sweetness, we will refer to its KMW. This is the amount of must sugar in percent of weight in a wine, which is measured in these units called KMW (Klosterneuburger Mostwaage). Folks more familiar with the Öchsle scale can get a close conversion by multiplying the KMW by 5. If you’re Italian, the degrees KMW is the same as degrees Babo. Think of it as being a bit like temperature degrees, but instead of things getting hotter as the numbers rise, things get a whole lot sweeter.

The basic quality designations used in Austria are Tafelwein, Landwein, Qualitätswein, Kabinett, and Prädikatswein (which includes Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, and Trockenbeerenauslese)

Tafelwein: At least 10.6 degrees KMW.

Landwein:At least 14 degrees KMW.

Qualitatswein: At least 15 degrees KMW.

Kabinett:At least 17 degrees KMW.

Spatlese:At least 19 KMW.

Auslese:At least 21 KMW.

From Auslese upwards, the grape material must contain an increasing proportion of overripe, nobly rotten or dried berries.

Beerenauslese(BA):At least 25 KMW.

Eiswein:At least 25 KMW; The grapes are frozen on the vine before harvest.

Strohwein:At least 25 KMW; produced from berries which were air-dried for at least three months on straw or reed mats.

Ausbruch:At least 27 KMW.

Trockenbeerenlese(TBA):At least 30 KMW.

 

French Wine Classification

In 1936 France established the world’s first detailed classification of wine grading and quality management, to maintain each wine producing region’s characteristics and to control quality, to keep up its strong tradition of wine making. Wines are classified in four categories, each governed by its specific laws. Appellation d’ Origine Controlee (AOC), Vin De Qualite Superieure (VDQS), Vin de Pays and Vin de Table. Apart from these, each region like Bordeaux and Burgundy also has its own classifications.

Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC)

This is the highest level of the grading system. Since its establishment in 1936, there are over 400 designated regions, producing half of the country’s production. Each region has its own grape varietals, alcohol content, grape growing, pruning and wine making methods. The wines have to be officially tested and tasted for the AOC certificate to be issued. It is this strict quality control that ensures the tradition and standard.

Despite its importance, the AOC system is not perfect; the strict rules of grape varietal and production method have prevented creativity. For example, in the southern Rhone region, fine red wines using cabernet sauvignon can only be classified as Vin de Pays, as cabernet sauvignon is not the designated grape of this AOC. APPELLATION CONTROLEE is the designated region, abbreviated to AC, and the producing region will be added in the middle, for example APPELLATION BORDEAUX CONTROLEE or APPELLATION BOURGOGNE COTROLEE, will be the AC grading for Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Vin De Qualite Superieure(VDQS)

This classification was established in 1949, one grade lower than AOC, therefore the requirements for production and wine grapes are less strict. For some regions, before they are promoted to AOC grading, are credited with VDQS status, then eventually upgraded. One interesting fact is some wineries will choose to remain in this level to avoid the strict control on wine making and grapes, and are free to develop their wine style.

Vin de Pays

This classification was established in 1979, at the time the purpose was to improve the quality of regional table wines, now these have become inexpensive quality wines welcomed by the local consumers. There are now around 150 regions producing these wines, about 20% of total production. More well known is the Vin de Pay d’OC in southern France, here the hot climate produces full and rounded wines that have drawn world wide interest.

Vin de Table

Vin de Table is the lowest French wine classification, about 30% of total production. This type of wine can be produced with a mixture of any French grapes, with no limitation on grape varietal and production, and is the cheapest of French wines.

 

German Wine Classification

The German wine classification system puts a strong emphasis on standardization and factual completeness. It is not based on the French AOC system, as those of most European countries are. German wines are named after the places they come from — in the best wines, usually a combination of a village name and a vineyard name. Unlike most European wines, however, the grape name is also usually part of the wine name. Each of the quality categories is determined by the level of ripeness that the grapes have achieved by the time they harvested. Riper grapes provide more aroma and more flavor. The riper the grapes, the higher the position on the pyramid the wines made from those grapes will be.

 

Italian Wine Classification

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

The DOCG category is reserved for the highest quality wines from Italy. In addition to the conditions required for DOC, the wines must be ‘guaranteed’ by passing a blind tasting test, and since 1992 there have been additional limitations on permitted yields and natural alcohol levels, to ensure that the wines that meet the criteria for this prestigious category are undoubtedly the best that Italy has to offer.

Donominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)

DOC was introduced in 1963 with the aim of encouraging wine producers to focus on quality and to protect the international reputation of Italian wines by ensuring that wines exported met the quality standard required. DOC wines must be produced according to strict guidelines, ensuring that the wine is made from permitted grape varieties and meets the legal requirements to be designated as a wine from the region it represents.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)

A third category, the IGT classification, was introduced in 1992, in order to acknowledge the wines that did not fit into the DOC category but were of superior quality to Italy’s table wines. In particular the new breed of ‘Super Tuscan’ wines, that were made from non-Italian grapes, and therefore could not be considered for DOC according to Tuscany’s wine legislation, required recognition. This has also provided an opportunity for winemakers to experiment with grape varieties that are perhaps not native to their region, and some truly interesting wines have emerged under the IGT classification.

Vino da Tavola

Vino de Tavola indicates table wine, the most basic wine available. This is genuinely mass produced wines intended for local consumption and is generally not suitable for ageing. There are no specifications as to what grapes may be used, the only stipulation being that wine labelled Vin de Tavola must have been produced in Italy. A substantial quantity of bulk wine made in Italy is shipped in large vats for bottling in other countries.

Each Italian region has many appellations within, which in turn are ranked according to the classification. The appellation can be an indication of a wine from a very specific area, as in ‘Chianti Classico’, or it can name just the region, as in ‘Sicily IGT’. Within the classification system there is movement – wines that hold IGT status can be recognized as quality wines and promoted to DOC. While this might mean that producers will have to be vigilant to ensure their wine adheres to the relevant legislation, it will also improve the profile of the wine in the global market and ensure it is accessible worldwide.

Italian legislation regulates the use of labels on the back of wine bottles, while the front label is up to the producer’s choice. Italian laws also allows the addition of 2 more qualifying terms to the labels:

  • classico is reserved for traditional production dated back many decades;

  • riserva can be used only for wines aged at least 2 years longer than the normal aging period for that particular typology.

Spanish Wine Classification

Since 2003 the Spanish wine classification is evolving closer to the French wine law.

  • Denomination De Origin Calificda (DOC) Highest quality, high and more stringent requirements in region and winemaking process. This category was created in 1988, following Spain’s entry into the EC. The national committee determines which Dos are deserving of DOC status

  • Denomination De Origin (DO) Similar to AOC in France, more stringent controls. This was the top rung on the ladder until 1988. The term is comparable to France’s AOC, and all DO's have regulatory body.

  • Vino de la Tierra (VDLT)  (wine of the country). The quality level is just above Vino de Mesa, this emulates France’s Vin de Pay and offers a wine of a particular place, but with few requirements of grape varieties, yields, site or aging. Equivalent to VDP in France, not so many regulations

  • Vino Comarcal (VC) Does not have a production standard, but the wine label may use a regional name. 

  • Vino De Mesa (VDM) - Table Wine. This category is the lowest rung on Spain’s wine quality ladder. It is similar to VDT in France. The wines are mixed with grapes from different growing areas.  This category is the lowest rung on Spain’s wine quality ladder.