First introduced with the 1999 vintage and exclusively permitted in the German wine-growing region of Rheingau, this is a designation for dry wines from classified top vineyards, the "Erste Lagen". The Rheingau was the only wine-growing region to have created a legally legitimised quality label regulation in 1999, before the VDP classification was introduced in 2002. In addition, "Erstes Gewächs" is a quality mark registered by the state of Hesse. As of the 2012 vintage, the Rheingau VDP members use the VDP's own (mutatis mutandis equivalent) designation "VDP Grosses Gewächs", just like the members from the other growing regions. Only the varieties Riesling and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) are permitted, which come from particularly high-quality vineyards. These are sharply defined plots (Herzstücke) of the classified sites. This classification was developed according to scientific criteria with the Geisenheim Institute. Parts of 79 of the total of 123 Rheingau vineyards were classified. However, due to the cultivation and production criteria as well as sensory testing, only about 3% of the total harvest is classified as Erstes Gewächs.
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