black-tower-classic-rangePhilipp Maurer, wine maker of Reh Kendermann, makers of the world’s top selling German wine brand Black Tower, has published a report calling for flexibility on the side of the retailers to successfully ride the storm that lies ahead following the disclosure that the 2010 German wine harvest vintage is now known to be the smallest in 25 years.

According to Philip Maurer’s report,the latest estimates from the German Wine Institute in Mainz suggest that this year’s vintage will yield only 6.9 m hectolitres, vs a ten-year average of 10 m hl. This is well over 25% less than the previous year and much smaller than the other short harvest this decade, 2003, which yielded 8.28 ml. The regions most seriously affected by reduced volumes are the Pfalz (-30%), and Rheinhessen (-22%), which are the key wine-producing regions, particularly for export. Quality is overall described as good and there will be some stunning Rieslings. However, the fact that volumes are so challenged means that prices have no alternative but to increase, in some instances, significantly. Grapes, must and wine are already being traded at prices more than 50% higher than last year.

2010 started with a very long, cold and hard winter. Some with long memories remember that this is how German winters always used to be, but in recent years, global warming has made us forget why we need winter tyres and triple glazing. A slow start to spring and cool weather plus some heavy downfalls of rain in April and May hampered vine growth and bud development and meant that flowering was patchy, already limiting yield potential. This situation was exacerbated in June in the Pfalz, a major volume-producing region, when freak weather conditions decimated 17% of the vine surface area due to hail.

July was warm and occasionally hot with temperatures hitting 38°C on a number of occasions. It was generally sunny and dry, allowing the just-formed grapes to start increasing in size and begin sugar accumulation. However, the onset of August heralded cool and often wet weather which prolonged the already delayed ripening process and this largely continued into September. Autumn made a very early start, with much cooler nights making their presence felt early on, although there were some fine and sunny days which helped to continue aroma and sugar development. The relatively high number of rainy days in September meant that some vineyards developed rot, of the un-benevolent kind, especially with more compact bunch varieties, such as Müller Thurgau, Silvaner and the Pinots, which has resulted in further loss of volume. Acidity levels are also considerably higher than usual.

The Rivaner harvest started in Rheinhessen on the 16th of September. The next grapes to be picked were Pinot Grigio but the red grapes and Riesling were left on the vine for as long as possible in order to reduce acidity levels and improve physiological ripeness. Some very pleasant sunny and warm autumn days helped in this development. These grapes were largely picked by 8 October, making this a very short harvesting period, almost on a par with the very short harvest period in 2003. Some stunning Rieslings have been produced, including our Roter Hang from rich, red slate soils in Rheinhessen, with oechsle levels reaching 92-93°. Acidity levels were also high, but here at Reh Kendermann we are used to dealing with such high acidity levels. This combination – high sugar and high acidity levels – makes the vintage unique. There could be some very high level Rieslings which may live for ever…

Thanks to our proximity to the vineyards and our technologically well-equipped wineries, Reh Kendermann is well placed to produce gently fruity and attractive wines this year, despite the challenging conditions for the earlier ripening grapes. We expect the higher acidity levels to mean that the young wines will need a little time to soften.

The dramatically low overall yield means that prices have already increased across the board.  There are more severe increases for certain grape varieties and quality levels. There is virtually no table wine available. This means that Hock, as well as Liebfraumilch made largely from Müller Thurgau, which suffered from very low yields, are very limited in availability as well as being much more expensive than in previous years. As Hock is classified as table wine the demand can only be covered by declassifying Qualitätswein. Pinot Grigio and Riesling, as well as the red grape varieties which are very much in demand, have also increased, sometimes by as much as double that of last year.

The full text can be found at the Reh Kendermann website: en/news/single/article/8/vintage-repo.html

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