October 2006

– Early Harvest
– Smaller yields than recent years at 9 million hl
– Ripeness above average
– Red wines the ‘stars’ of the vintage

MAINZ, Germany – The 2006 German grape harvest has rarely been completed as quickly as it was this year; picking was particularly accelerated in regions south of the Rheingau due to heavy autumn rainfall. Fortunately, modern harvesting and vinification techniques have been optimised in the last few years, which allowed careful but speedy harvesting and initial wine processing to take place around the clock.

Norbert Weber, President of the German Winegrowers Association, on the vintage noted: “The extreme rainfall made harvesting a little difficult for winegrowers in some areas, but overall we are happy with the condition of the grapes, particularly with regards to their ripeness levels. Record must weights of over 200° Oechsle were achieved; which will result in a large number of Prädikat level wines.”

The German Wine Institute (DWI) expects the vintage to deliver full flavoured wines with pronounced minerality and a fresh and harmonious balance between fruit and acid. Reds will be the stars of the vintage, rich in both colour and body.

Volume decrease due to selective harvesting.

As well as advancing the date of the harvest, the rain caused the onset of rot, so the winemakers had to harvest selectively to avoid rotten or unripe grapes. Result is the yield is smaller than originally predicted.

“At around 9 million hl the yield will be at a similar level to last year and lower than the five year average of around 9.7 million hl,” explains Norbert Weber.

The total yield for all of Europe is expected to be larger than usual at around 180 million hl.

Vintage 2006 by region

Vintage 2006 posed a challenge for vine growers in most regions of Germany, but different methods were used to overcome these difficulties as illustrated in the DWI report. Oechsle ratings in the Ahr were very high, almost on a par with those in 2003; 100° Oechsle for Pinot Noir was not uncommon and even Müller-Thurgau reached must weights of around 75° Oechsle.

PFALZ harvest was finished in record time – heavy thunderstorms and selective harvesting led to a lower than average yield of 2,100,000hl. Despite this must weights were good with reds, especially Dornfelder, reaching 80° Oechsle. A high quality vintage is expected with wines promising to be fruit driven, fresh and well structured.

RHEINGAU experienced a good vintage; must weights averaging 90° Oechsle led to over half of production being destined for premium wines. Auslese and Beerenauslese wines will also be plentiful this year. Pinot Noir thrived this year. The harvest ended on 20th October. Overall the yield will be slightly higher than 2005 at 240,000hl.

RHEINHESSEN harvest was considerably shorter than average finishing mid October with a considerable amount harvested by hand. Thanks to a sunny September must weights were quite high with Riesling averaging 90° Oechsle.
High quality, elegant white wines with good varietal character are expected.
Red wines benefited enormously from the hot September weather and will be full bodied and deep in colour.

MOSEL REGION’S unsettled weather conditions didn’t always act in the growers favour. High humidity led to the early development of the grapes which forced an early harvest. Handpicking was, once again, essential on the steep slopes to ensure high quality grapes. Must weights averaged between 90 and 100° Oechsle but there will certainly be some noble sweet wines. Wines with good mineral character and moderate acidity are anticipated. The yield is noticeably lower than 2005 with around 850,000hl.

NAHE producers also got off to an early start with the September rains leading to an advanced harvest which was completed by October 20th. The grapes showed good physiological ripeness with must weights of 100°Oechsle not uncommon. Young wines will show good fruit character balanced by subtle acidity. The yield is similar in quantity to 2005 with a figure of 310,000 but the quantity of Riesling is slightly lower.

BADEN’S harvest lasted for 3-4 weeks; It was extremely labour intensive as selective picking was of the utmost importance – resulting in yields that were lower than initially predicted. The final volume is expected to be around 1,100,000 hl – 12% less than in 2005. Tauberfranken, in the north of the Baden region, received considerably less rainfall than other areas making the situation easier here. Overall the expectation is that there will be around 40% more premium wines in Baden than usual. The young wines are well structured with moderate acidity and fine fruit aromas; the Pinot wines have particularly good potential.

FRANKEN Region harvest was also completed by October 20th as vine growers reacted fast to the heavy rainfall on 3rd October, picking immediately to safeguard a quality crop. Conditions up to the 3rd of October were generally dry and some early ripening varieties such as Müller-Thurgau and Bacchus had already been harvested in advance of the rain. Overall Franken expects a good to very good vintage, and with an average must weight of around 90° Oechsle and a good number of premium wines. The yield is a healthy 470,000hl. Full bodied wines with pronounced acidity and intense aromas are expected.

WÜRTTEMBERG producers are expecting good quality wines, with a slight improvement on last year’s vintage. Late harvest grapes were picked in the red and Riesling vineyards. The yield will be around 1,000,000 hl, 10% less than that of 2005 due to the use of selective hand picking in many
vineyards. The harvest was completed by 20th of October with quality declared as high particularly for red varieties. Whites are expected to be fruit driven.

AHR REGION experienced less rainfall than more southerly regions. Harvest began with Frühburgunder in early September and was largely completed by mid-October. Acidity levels were moderate in ripe grapes. With a good yield of around 440,000 hl, producers in the Ahr are pleased with both quality and quantity this year.

At the start of the harvest in mid-September, producers in the HESSISCHE BERGSTRASSE region were already picking Müller-Thurgau grapes for TBA wine with an Oechsle level of 305° – a good sign for ripeness levels in the region this vintage. Riesling weights are above 90° Oechsle and Pinot Noir even higher. As with last year the yield is relatively low at around 30,000hl. White wines will be complex with pronounced minerality; reds full bodied and fairly powerful.

Riesling from the steep slopes of the MITTELRHEIN averaged around 100° Oechsle with lower acidity than last year but with good levels of tartaric.
All other varieties reached above average must weights. Total yield is anticipated to be 35,000hl which considerably exceeds last years’ 10,000hl.

Winemakers in the SAALE-UNSTRUT region enjoyed favourable weather conditions. Harvesting was quick but not as accelerated in some regions, starting in September and ending in mid-October. Grapes reached surprisingly high must weights, with Silvaner around 100° Oechsle, balanced by a streak of acidity. The wines are showing greater maturity than last year’s vintage at this stage. The yield is 50% greater than last year at 40,000hl.

In SACHSEN, a sunny September with warm days and cool nights enabled the harvest to start a little early. Winemakers in the most easterly German winegrowing region were content with healthy grapes, a yield of 20,000hl and are expectant of a high quality vintage.