On August 10th, the harvest for partly fermented new wine (also known as Federweisser) commenced in the German wine growing region of Pfalz (Palatinate). Although this is an early harvest than previous years, the early ripening Solaris grape variety reached high density with over 100 degrees Oechsle.
Vegetation earlier than average records
As reported by the German Wine Institute, the vines are currently about a week ahead of previous years in regards to their maturity. Depending on the region, the onset of the main vintage is expected as early as late August to early September. However, late ripening varieties such as Riesling will likely be ready for harvesting in mid to late September (depending on the individual wine growing regions).
With an unusually warm and sunny spring, the vines began sprouting roughly two weeks earlier than the long-term average. Some even compared the Rheingau region to the second earliest bud emergence after 2014 (when the weather first started being recorded). By the end of May the vines also began to bloom in warmer locations eight to ten days in advance of the 30-year average. An early harvest is predicted as grapes are usually ready for havesting 90 to 100 days after flowering.
Partial damage due to late frosts, drought and sunburn
Late frosts around May 10 to 15 resulted in considerable frost damage in a stretch of land starting from North Baden thru North Württemberg to Franconia upto Saale-Unstrut and Saxony. The two eastern growing areas are anticipated to expect a larger loss in yields.
Drought was generally widespread throughout the vineyards in Germany. Although there have been frequent rainfalls in the last few months, it has been varied and sporadic from region to region resulting in brief relief to the wine growing regions. As a result, water supply is quite diverse between the individual wine regions. Most of the older vineyards are in relatively good shape thanks to their deep roots, whereas the younger plants and vineyards are on soils with little water storage, therefore exhibiting symptoms of stress from time to time even while some vineyards are being irrigated due to extreme heat waves.
As noted in previous years, temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius (86+ Fahrenheit) causes sunburn damage on the grapes and the severity of the damage can only be assessed once the hot spell is over. Although this reduces yield it does not affect the quality of the wine.
Optimistic view on a promising vintage
Overall, the grapes growing in the German vineyards are very healthy and we can look forward to some beautiful, fruity, spring whites. However the quality of the vintage is based on the weather in the next few weeks which has winemakers hoping for little rain followed by an Indian summer.
It is safe to say, vintners are cautiously optimistic for high quality wine with good yields for 2020. However, it remains to be seen to what extent the nationwide total harvest will move, either above or below the ten-year average of 8.7 million hectoliters.
source: Deutsches Weininstitut / The German Wine Institute / www.germanwines.de