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  • July 17, 2014
  • The Grosser Ring Wine Auction

  • by Florian Lauer

old_photo_auctionSince the late 19th century, many of Germany’s most renowned producers offer their finest wines at auction, where anyone can bid on some of the best Rieslings in the world.

The VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, also known as the Grosser Ring (“large circle”), was established in Trier in 1908.

How does the Grosser Ring wine auction work?

In Trier, the annual Grosser Ring wine auction is held in mid-September and is open to the public, with the possibility to taste the wines in the morning before the event. After the pre-auction tasting, the wines are then auctioned off in the afternoon in a so-called wet auction—i.e., the wines are served again while they are being auctioned. These are special lots of some of the best wines from the Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer. Therefore, they are not available via traditional sales channels.

Can I judge if a wine is worth it?

The wines sold at the Grosser Ring auction often represent the essence of Mosel Riesling’s greatness. The producer only offers the most exceptional wines from his or her cellar. In addition, all auction wines have to be tested before the event by a group of knowledgeable wine buyers.

How can I bid on a wine?

1. Take a look at the auction list for 2014.

2. Choose your favorite wines and decide the number of bottles you would like to purchase out of these lots.

3. Think about the maximum price per bottle that you are willing to pay. Bids are put in the form of “I want x number of bottles for up to y euros per bottle.”

For example, there is a flexible and smart bidding pyramid:

1 bottle if the hammer price is not more than  €100 per bottle

6 bottles if the hammer price is not more than €45 per bottle

12 bottles if the hammer price is not more than €35 per bottle

18 bottles if the hammer price is not more than €30 per bottle

36 bottles if the hammer price is not more than €15 per bottle

4. Give your maximum price for a certain number of bottles in the bidding pyramid to one of the wine brokers, as only an accredited broker is allowed to bid at the auction. They, however, bid for everybody and will gladly offer you their advice as well.

5. After the auction, the broker takes care of the shipment of your wines, which is no problem in Germany. International shipments are also possible.

grosser_ring_auction_stickerAre auction wines cheaper than normally sold lots?

No, the auction offers rare wines of exceptional quality. So what you get are wines that are worth their price, as demand meets supply. Nevertheless, bargains are possible.

Are there any hidden costs or other risks in bidding at auction?

No, you don’t have to pay any extra fees for unsuccessful bids. For instance, if your maximum bid was lower than the hammer price, you simply don’t get the wine.

If the hammer price meets the bid in your price pyramid, you only get the bottles that you ordered at that price.

The broker issues the invoice. Neither the broker’s commission of 5 percent nor the value-added tax is included in closing bid price. There could also be additional costs, such as for shipping.

Who is my contact person?

Your broker is your contact person. The following list covers all contact details of the accredited wine brokers in 2014. To be sure, please have a look at the official Grosser Ring and VDP websites. Inside the catalog, you will find a list of the brokers, too.




Images courtesy of Florian Lauer.

Florian Lauer is the fifth-generation grower and winemaker at Weingut Peter Lauer in Ayl on the Saar. He studied viticulture in Montpellier.

  • The 2014 Grosser Ring wine auction will take place on Friday, September 19. The venue is the ERA Conference Centre (ECC) in the Metzer Allee 2–4, 54295 Trier. For more details, click here. This year’s Grosser Ring – VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer event is officially called “Masterpieces of the Mosel.”

    For those who are keen on the history of the VDP and Grosser Ring, I can recommend Daniel Deckers’s brief overview. Deckers, who is a political editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, also wrote a book on the history of the VDP titled Im Zeichen des Traubenadlers (In the Sign of the VDP Eagle, von Zabern, 2010).

    By the late 19th century, wine auctions were quite common in the Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Pfalz, and Mosel. In Trier, the fashion for racy, light-bodied, dry-tasting Mosel wine rose with the famous spring auctions held at the grand hall of the Katholischer Bürgerverein, which was later destroyed in the Second World War and was located at today’s Europahalle, nearby the Viehmarktplatz. Various circles of mainly large estate owners would offer numerous Fuder at auction back then. These series of auctions were held in March and April. More often than not, the wines tasted either dry or off-dry (feinherb) and could be sampled in the cellar a few days before the event or at a pre-tasting on the day of the auction. Glancing over scholarly German wine weeklies from this period and beyond in the Trier City Archives, it seems that the Trier wine auctions began to change by the 1920s or so. For one, the Verband Deutscher Naturweinversteigerer (VDNV), established in 1910, was already holding its auctions in October for some years, and there didn’t seem to be the same buzz as in the 1890s. It should be noted, too, that the Rheingau, Pfalz, and other regions later copied the famous Trier auctions by having top producers join together to auction their wines. But the Mosel was unique for being the first to group the series of auctions at one location on certain dates.

    The Grosser Ring has made its reputation with much smaller quantities of the so-called classic fruity and nobly sweet style of Mosel Rieslings over the years. The VDP’s Mainzer Weinbörse is more for the wine trade.

    It should be noted that the Bernkasteler Ring also has an annual auction, which will be held this year on September 18 at Nells Park Hotel in Trier. Click here for more details.

  • In 1895, the Trier wine biweekly Weinmarkt talks about the auctions of bottled wines as well. In Trier, Max Ferd. Richter, in Mülheim, offered 25,000 bottles of 1884 Mosel and Saar wines from leading producers.

    By the 1890s, the fashion was for young, brisk Mosel wine rather than mature ones.

    The Trier wine auctions allowed the buyer to taste the wines from Fuder beforehand. The wines had to be Naturweine (unchaptalized wines).

  • Below is a passage from my piece in The Art of Eating on Mosel wine and the Trier auctions in the 1890s:

    In March and April, wine buyers flocked to Trier to attend the auctions, where Mosel wine from the best sites was sold by the Fuder (the traditional oak cask of the Mosel, officially holding nearly 1,000 liters) as eigenes Wachsthum, or “own growth.” These weren’t merely limited quantities of a few chosen sweet Rieslings, such as dominate today’s auctions in September by the Grosser Ring (“large circle”), the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer regional association of the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter, or VDP, the important national association of leading German wine estates. At the famous 1895 and 1896 Trier wine auctions, over 1,500 Fuder of the 1893 vintage were sold, the equivalent of almost 2 million bottles, which was still only a tiny percentage of the total production in the Mosel wine region.

    In the late 19th century, Mosel wines were specifically made to keep the pure Riesling aromas and a fresh, light prickle from residual carbon dioxide. They were consumed in their youth, unlike the renowned, longer-lived sweet Rhine wines, such as the coveted Auslesen from the Rheingau and Pfalz, which were often made from botrytized grapes. Mosels, with their pure Riesling scent and piquancy, represented the zeitgeist of modern industrial Germany with its faster tempo and newly affluent consumers. This period also saw the beginning of Jugendstil (“young style”), or Art Nouveau, in Germany. A number of buildings in the Mosel Valley, for instance, in the wine hub of Traben-Trarbach, and some of the most distinctive wine labels, such as Maximin Grünhaus and Immich-Batterieberg, date from this period.

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