A glossary of wine terms used on this site

abv    alcohol by volume

AP Number (Amtliche Prüfungsnummer or 'official testing number')

Germans like order and regulation.  A German wine law of 1971 introduced a system of official  testing of all German quality (QbA, QmP) wines, which results in the granting of an A.P. Number.  This number must appear on the label. 

The testing is part of a three part process: growers have to keep harvest and production balance sheets and there is then the official examination of the bottled product.  The following additional description is taken from the German Wine Institute's web pages (http://www.deutscheweine.de/):

Vintners are obligated to keep numerous records throughout the harvest, documenting several quality-related factors, e.g. when, where, how much and which variety(ies) were harvested and at what degree of ripeness. This data is compiled in a so-called Herbstbuch (harvest book). Cellar stocks must also be accounted for, i.e. purchases of grape juice or wine must from other sources must be recorded in a so-called Kellerbuch (cellar book). After bottling, a wine is chemically analyzed and, if it meets the basic legal requirements, it is then examined by a government-approved laboratory that records total alcohol, existing alcohol, total extract, sugar-free extract, total sugar before and after inversion, total acidity, free and total sulfur, etc.

The lab results serve as a profile. The analytical examination, for example, ensures that a wine is fit for consumption and meets minimum legal requirements. It also rules out gross manipulations. First and foremost, though, the analysis guarantees that a wine's contents comply with threshold values, e.g. the sulfur content does not exceed the legal maximum permitted.

In order to apply for a quality control test number (A.P.Nr.), the grower, producer or bottler must submit the following to the testing authorities: (1) the chemical analysis, which reflects the data the vintner entered in the aforementioned harvest book (2) an application form that provides additional data on the wine and (3) three samples bottled from the same lot.

The testing authorities build their tasting panels from experienced, trained wine experts from various branches of the wine trade, viticultural research and teaching institutions, wine controllers and consumers. The testing procedure concludes when a quality control test number is awarded.

For further information see the German Wine Institute's description of the "Quality Control Examination" at http://www.deutscheweine.de/englisch/wissen/wiss4_3.htm

The AP Number consists for 5 parts - we will use the example of a 1993 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett from Pauly Licht-Bergweiler, whose AP number is shown on the label as

AP Nr.  2 577 264 8 94

The number is broken up into 5 parts, though on some bottles some parts are joined together:

  • 2
The first part indicates where the wine was produced (in this case 2 = Moselle)
  • 577
The second part indicates the village (in this case Brauneberg)
  • 264
The third part indicates the producer (in this case P. Licht Bergweiler)
  • 8
The fourth part (which is the most important part) is a reference to the bottling.  All wine bottled in the same batch will have the same 4th element in the AP Nr.

In many cases this number will refer to the particular cask (which in the case of finer wines, especially at Auslese level or higher, may also be mentioned on the label: e.g. this might be described as "Fuder 8" - although it isn't.)

  • 94
Indicates the year of bottling/testing

For the consumer, the AP number is especially useful in that it enables you to identify a particular wine very closely.  E.g. Licht-Bergweiler might have made more than one 1993 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett, or there might be considerable variation between barrels/bottlings.  If you find a bottle with the AP Nr 2 577 264 8 94, then you know it's exactly the same as mine.


Understanding a German Wine Label



Actually a trademark, though like Hoover, Biro etc fast becoming a generic term for screw cap.  Screwcaps are generally regarded as "a good thing", especially in Australia and New Zealand.  Corks, by contrast, are a natural product (and of course keep the cork tree farmers of Portugal and the unique ecosystem of the cork forests going) - one of their problems is that they can be subject to TCA, which will lead to a musty, wet cardboard smell and taste to wine: this is a corked wine.  Stelvins and other screw caps are supposed to eliminate the problem of corked wine.  Stelvin's own website is here.  Google will give you the full arguments: let's just say that cork still has its adherents.

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Last updated: 15 December 2005 13:41