The 2011 vintage – A look at the 13 German growing regions

10/1/2011: At the end of the wine harvest, the German Wine Institute (DWI) provides an overview of how the 2011 vintage has developed in the thirteen German wine growing regions:


The vintners in the Ahr region are extremely satisfied with this year’s vintage. Spared by adverse weather conditions, an excellent vintage in both qualitative and quantitative terms was harvested this year which will provide optimally colour-intensive and fruity red wines. The wine barrels will be filled again with an estimated 47,000 hectolitres after the poor harvest yield of the previous year had led to intermittent supply shortages in the market. The harvest of Frühburgunder already started in the second half of August, followed by that of Rivaner and Portugieser from September 12th and Pinot Noir from the 14th. During the last weeks of the autumn, the increase in must weight was further enhanced by the concentration process in the grapes caused by sunshine and warm, dry weather.


The unusually sunny, warm and dry April led to explosive sprouting of the vines which probably even older vintners had hardly ever experienced in this form before. The 2-3 leaf stage was already reached in the first decade of April which meant a good fortnight’s lead and the earliest sprouting since 1976. The frosts of May 3rd to 5th were a serious blow for the vintners, especially in the Tauberfranken region, as they destroyed nearly the complete 2011 harvest. In the other regions of Baden the development of the vines carried on quite fast. The first open blossoms were already registered around May 15th. Continuous rain at the beginning of June accelerated the vegetation process while the grapes and the foliage remained remarkably healthy. In exposed vineyards the grape closing already occurred by the June 10th which meant an advance in development of about three weeks. A quantitatively good harvest could be expected for the Baden vineyards after a good supply of rain water in July. The main harvest in the Baden region began very early, at the beginning of September. Due to weather-related reasons, it was a bit hectic at first. However, with stable and sunny late summer weather, harvesting continued in a calm and unexcited way from the middle of September. Remarkably for the 2011 vintage, a very high yield level of 95 hl/ha was achieved while at the same time above average qualities across the complete range of varieties were reached. Overall, a total harvest volume of about 1.35 million hectolitres is expected in Baden. Consumers can look forward to variety-typical as well as mature and well-structured Baden wines from the current vintage.


Frost in May and regional hailstorms in the summer have caused heavy losses to the total harvest result in the Franken region. According to current estimates Franken will only reach a harvest volume of 360,000 hectolitres this year which is on an equally low level as in the previous year. Apart from the partly enormous losses of individual producers the effects of the poor harvest on large producers and vintners’ associations in Franken will not be as bad as initially anticipated due to the balancing of volumes within the region. Thus, Franken will have enough wine to satisfy the demand of the market. However, the harvest results will temporarily slow down the dynamic development of the Franconian wine industry. As regards quality, the grape variety Silvaner will again be the „champion“ this year. This means that Franken should be able to further sharpen and extend its regional profile. Especially the late maturing grape varieties from the current harvest are expected to produce a great vintage.


This year’s harvest yield of about 34,000 hectolitres in the Hessische Bergstrasse is slightly above the average of the past ten years. The qualities are comparable with those of the very good vintages of 2003 and 2009. Due to the significant development advantage of the vines, the Riesling harvest already started in early September. At the end of the first decade of October harvesting was on the whole finished. Some grapes were left on the vines as the vintners are hoping for particular specialities such as ice wine. The 2011 vintage is expected to produce very fruity wines with moderate levels of acidity. These fit well in the demand situation. All in all the vintners from the Hessische Bergstrasse are very satisfied with the latest vintage.


At the Mittelrhein, the warm spring resulted in the early swelling of the vine buds at the beginning of April followed by the first growth in the middle of April. The first blooming vine blossoms could be found around May 20th, and blossoming often finished before the end of May. According to the records of the viticultural advice centres, this was the second earliest bloom since 1959. The late frost on May 4th did not have any consequences in the Mittelrhein region. The beginning of the ripening process of Müller-Thurgau was determined on July 31st and of Riesling on August 8th. These dates meant an advance in development by ten days on the average of the years 1990 to 2010, and even 18 days compared with the average value of the years 1960 to 1989. This advance remained during the further development of the season. The fabulous late summer weather lasted from September 20th  until the end of the first decade in October. The harvesting season for Müller-Thurgau started in September. Here, the yield was markedly higher than in the two previous years. The total amount harvested in the Mittelrhein growing region is estimated at around 43,000 hectolitres. The vintners are very satisfied with quantity and quality of the 2011 vintage. The young wines which were fermented without any problems are described as being extremely aromatic.


The Mosel region is marvelling about the 2011 vintage. Although the Riesling harvest was not quite finished by the third decade in October the qualities overall are satisfactory. Must weights have increased again greatly during the weeks of golden autumn and the yield surpasses the original expectations. The favourable development conditions have advanced the quality further during the dry and warm sunny days and with the vines having healthy foliage. Vintners are very satisfied with the new vintage both in terms of quantity and in terms of quality except in parts of the Mittelmosel where losses occurred due to severe hailstorms. The shortage which was caused by the small harvest of the previous year can be made up again with the 2011 vintage. Early analysis of the young wines already shows their incredibly fruity aromas. Consumers can look forward to trying the finished wines. Due to the high yield levels many vintners from the Mosel region are prepared to keep grapes on the vines for producing ice wine. The total 2011 harvest estimate amounts to about 990,000 hectolitres.


The fast vegetation process and early ripening this year were quite significant for the Nahe region as well. The region was not totally spared by the late frosts in May, however, the degree of damage remained limited compared with other areas. Overall, the early blooming and its process led to a good fruit setting, and the further weather conditions determined at an early stage the way for a good vintage. The harvest of Müller-Thurgau started around  September 8th, followed by Pinot Gris and Dornfelder just under a week later. The Riesling harvest was not quite finished by the third decade in October. All in all, the vintners are very satisfied with the harvest as regards quantity and quality. The sunny autumn weather has not only relaxed the harvesting season but also affected an increase in the degrees Oechsle. The vintners at the Nahe are expecting a harvest volume of around 395,000 hectolitres this year.


In the Pfalz, temperatures were already higher than usual in the spring months, measuring up to 25° C at the beginning of April. This resulted in early growth of the vines with a 14 day advance on normal development. The frost which occurred in the night of May 4th caused severe damage especially in the northern area between Neustadt and Zellertal. Blooming of the vines began in the 21st calendar week which was as early as in 2007 which was then the earliest date ever in the history of Rheinland-Pfalz. Due to the favourable weather conditions in June the advance in vegetation grew to three weeks during this time compared with the long-term average. July was overall too cold and often very wet – not really a summer month this year – which inhibited the development of the vines slightly. The good supply of water combined with the late summer weather was optimal for a fast increase of the must weights. With warm and humid weather in September, harvesting started on a wide scale and relatively quickly around the 10th of the month in order to pick optimally healthy grapes. The marvellous Indian summer later in September led to a calm end of the harvest season with outstanding qualities across all grape varieties and a harvest prognosis of around 2.1 million hectolitres.


2011 was a wine year of extremes, with a long winter, late frosts in May, an extraordinarily dry spring and heavy rains in August. Blooming already started three weeks earlier than the long-term average, and the ripening period of the berries began two and a half weeks earlier than usual. This year’s start of the harvest around September 12th was the earliest ever recorded in the Rheingau wine history since weather records began in 1955. Weather conditions throughout the year were overall very favourable for the growth of the vines. Fortunately, the late frost at the beginning of May had hardly any effect in the Rheingau region. The extremely early harvest was due to the early ripening of the grapes and the warm and damp weather. But the vintners also had the courage to wait as the beautiful weather allowed for a relaxed harvest. In the Rheingau, with an average yield of 84 hectolitres per hectare, around 258,000 hectolitres of wine must were harvested. This result is slightly higher than the long-term average and fits well in the marketing situation which was this year characterised by the low harvest yield of the previous year. The vintners are very satisfied with the 2011 qualities. 75% of the Riesling grapes and 50% of the Pinot Noir grapes harvested are suitable for predicate wine. Noble sweet specialities such as Trockenbeerenauslese with more than 250° Oechsle were also picked. The first vintage wines present themselves with a good acidity balance and fruity aromas.


Sunny spring and early blooming of the vines led to an early harvest in 2011, with a slightly lower than average yield but good qualities. After the harsh winter, the vines had sprouted early and developed quickly. Over the whole vegetation period, this led to a developmental advantage in the vineyards, compared with the multi-year average of the growing region. This advantage remained even though there were some not so summery days in July. The pleasingly good development was unfortunately clouded by the late frost in the night of May 3rd to 4th with heavy losses especially in the lower regions of the Rhine valley, in the Selztal to Ingelheim as well as around Bingen and the areas widely spread about the hills where the cold air had accumulated. Hail damage was also deplored in a few places. The stable high-pressure weather conditions in September contributed to the fact that the wine harvest which started at the beginning of that month proceeded extremely calmly and relaxed. At the same time, the quality-promoting weather laid the foundations for premium wines, and grapes for the production of noble sweet specialities were frequently harvested. The volume of 2.7 million hectolitres brought in by the Rheinhessen vintners is probably slightly below the ten-year average. However, the big differences between the individual sub-regions of Rheinhessen are remarkable; they were caused by the different impacts of the May frosts and hail storms in various areas. Fortunately, the cellars which were empty on a large scale due to the low yield of the previous year could be filled again to meet the demand of the consumer without interruption. Exceptionally fruity white wines and wonderfully colour-intensive red wines are expected to be typical for the 2011 vintage.


In the Saale-Unstrut region, like nearly everywhere else, the mild weather in spring caused the vines to sprout early, beginning in the middle of April and developing speedily and not significantly affected by the ground frosts at the beginning of May. With a vegetative advantage of two weeks the vines started flowering at the end of May/beginning of June. The grapes of the compact varieties closed in the middle of July. Sunburn damage did not occur. 2011 presented itself as a „fast“ wine year in August with very good fruit setting, just as it did in 2003 and 2007. The weather was beautiful when the main harvest started about one week earlier than usual on September 10th. The qualities harvested supply good basic as well as predicate qualities. After two quantitatively lean years, the vintners are very satisfied with the current vintage as it gives them the possibility to replenish their low stocks. For the Saale-Unstrut region, a total harvest volume of 48,000 hectolitres is expected.


The vines in the Sachsen vineyards started sprouting about eight days earlier than usual in a very warm April. The late frost in the night of May 4th to 5th did not cause any significant damage. However, 50% less precipitation in May caused problems in the water supply of the vines in some places which affected the growth, especially in the residual stone soils of the steep and terraced vineyards. Flowering of the vines started at the beginning of June, two weeks before the usual date. June brought about a relaxation of the soil water supply. The rain in July and August led to an increased vitality of the vines with a lot of grapes which frequently required thinning out. The harvest of Müller-Thurgau started on September 3rd, followed by that of Traminer on September 25th and Riesling on October 8th. In terms of quality, the Sachsen vintners can expect a good and solid 2011 vintage. After the extremely low yields of the previous two years they are very satisfied with this year’s harvest situation. The expected volume of 24,000 hectolitres is 33% above the long-term average and is thus well-suited to the strong demand.


In Württemberg, especially in the north-western part of the growing region, about 3,000 of the 11,400 hectares of vineyard suffered severe damage during the harsh frosts in May. Otherwise, the development of the vines in Württemberg was also characterised by an early vegetation period with flowering around May 25th showing a three-week advance. Thanks to the good soil water supply the development of the grapes in the vineyards that were spared by the frost was quite lavish. Quality promoting measures such as removing the leaves around the grapes and thinning out of excess grapes were prevalent. The harvest volume in the growing region is estimated at around 800,000 hectolitres which corresponds to approximately two thirds of a normal harvest. The lower quantity harvested is principally due to the late frosts but also to the quality promoting cultivation measures. In part, severe hailstorms led to further crop losses. The first early-ripening grape varieties were harvested at the end of August already. The later ripening varieties such as Lemberger and Riesling were brought in during optimal late summer weather. The fully ripe and healthy crop means that very drinkable and mineral-rich Württemberg wines can be expected.

Deutsches Weininstitut, Press Office

Gutenbergplatz 3-5, 55116 Mainz
Ernst Büscher, Tel. +49 (0) 6131/2829-29
E-Mail: eb@deutscheweine.de