Weissherbst – Vin Gris
According to German wine law, Weissherbst is the term used to denote a special type of rosé wine. Rosé wines are made from red grapes which are then fermented as a white wine, i.e. the grape skins are removed before the must begins to vinify. Vin Gris wines are quality wines, and may be still wines, sparkling wines or semi-sparkling wines. In order for a wine to claim the Weissherbst quality designation, the grapes it is made from must be a single variety and come from a single vineyard, and the resulting wine must at least fulfil the criteria for a QbA (quality wine from a specific region). The grape variety is listed on the wine label first and is then followed by the term Weissherbt, for example Portugieser Weissherbst.
Strict Regulations under Wine Law
The quality designation Weissherbst is strictly regulated by wine law. The wine must be made from a single red grape variety that originates from a single vineyard. Instead of vinifying the grapes as a red wine, they are treated as if they were white grapes and fermented after being pressed. The original must has to exhibit at least the sweetness specified for a quality wine and may only be augmented with süssreserve (sweet reserve), i.e. unfermented must from the same grape variety with at least the same quality grade as the must used for the wine itself. The term Weissherbst actually has nothing to do with autumn (German: Herbst). It comes from the name of a certain grape variety, the blauer arbst, which is a pinot noir mutation. The most commonly used grape varieties for Weissherbst are pinot noir, blauer portugieser and sometimes pinot meunier. Especially in the Palatinate, Vin Gris is also made from the Heroldrebe – a cross of blauer portugieser and lemberger.
Vin Gris is produced with a method similar to that used for white wine . The must is pressed from the grapes before fermentation sets in so that less colour compounds and tannins are introduced to the wine – the pigment from the red grapes is only enough to produce a rosé colour. Vin Gris has a flavour and aroma similar to white wine.
Weissherbst – A Quality Designation in Germany
EU law treats Vin Gris or Weissherbst as a special type of rosé wine, and the two terms may not be used together on a wine label. According to German law, a rosé wine can be vinified from a combination of grape varieties, i.e. the pure varietal character of a Vin Gris is not guaranteed. In addition, a rosé may be a plain table wine, but it can also be a quality wine or even a prädikatswein. In Germany the term Weissherbst, on the other hand, already designates quality wine status. Only seven of the thirteen German wine growing regions are currently permitted to produce Weissherbst.
Vin Gris wines best demonstrate their characteristics at a drinking temperature of 10° C. Weissherbst is known as gleichgepresstersüssgepresster in Switzerland.