2014 Vintage – A Region-by-Region Report from Germany
Thanks to a rapid, organized harvest and strict grape selection, German winemakers were able to successfully meet the challenges of the 2014 vintage head on. While grapes with the high levels of ripeness necessary for rich, food-friendly wines and sweet dessert specialties have also been harvested, wine lovers can look forward to a vintage of predominately light, fresh and balanced wines, the German Wine Institute (DWI) is reporting. This style of wine dovetails nicely with the market’s current preference. The chances for an ice wine in this vintage, however, are not looking good. With 9.3 million (mn) hl expected to be harvested throughout Germany — an eleven percent increase over last year — the anticipated volumes will surpass the roughly 9.2 mn hl averaged over the past 10 years. These numbers have helped quiet concerns on the price front. All in all, 2014 is shaping up to be both a high-quality and marketable vintage. The DWI has collected the following harvest reports from Germany’s 13 classified wine growing regions.
Ahr: Lower yields, healthy grapes
First the good news: With a known preference for red grapes, news of the Spotted Wing Drosphilia (Kirschessigfliege) caused much concern in this small and predominantly red wine region. Fortunately the threat didn’t materialize as feared this year — it appears the pests don’t share the Ahr’s fondness for Pinot Noir. The winemakers, however, had no time to celebrate their close call. The harvest kicked off in late September. The accelerated development caused by unseasonably lovely spring weather was lost over the course of 2014’s cool, wet summer. Where hopes had soared with an early April bud break and early flowering in June, they crashed when July and August saw more than twice the normal levels of rainfall in the region. Continued wet weather during the harvest weeks required a great deal of careful, rigorous selection in the vineyard. The sun’s return in October permitted a harvest of healthy grapes of optimal ripeness and showing good must weights. The volumes were reduced by between 20 and 30 percent for each winemaker by the rigorous yet inevitable selection strategy. Estimates currently anticipate around 45,000 hectoliters (hl), an almost 30 percent jump over the year prior and a volume significantly above the 10-year average of 40,000 hl.
Baden: Slow and steady win(e)s the day
The winter in Baden wasn’t really one at all. As a result, the vines kicked into the vegetative stage during the last ten days of March. The cool weather that followed then delayed the development through fruit set that was observed around May 20, even in early developing areas. Thanks to a warm period in early June, the fruit set was a success in all corners, excepting several areas that experienced coulure, or grape shatter. Heavy rains in early July accelerated the growth of the vines, pushing development forward up through August by roughly 18 days compared with the long-established average. In some cases the dates topped even those from 2011, the benchmark for early development. The health and irrigation of the vines remained excellent up through harvest. The fly in the ointment, quite literally: the Spotted Wing Drosphilia, first observed in Baden vineyards in 2011. This year signaled the first time that real control measures were needed. Harvest kicked off on 25 August with the bulk of the harvest moving forward in early September. Thanks to the warm, sunny weather, sugar levels rose and acid levels fell in the days leading up to the grape harvest. A full 25 percent increase from 2013 for harvest volumes and yields is beingforecast, with anticipated volumes of 1.35 mn hl. Müller-Thurgau and Chasselas (Gutedel) were particularly bountiful this year, as were the Pinot varieties. Due to low stocks from smaller, prior harvests and the exceptional condition of the vines, the current market-ready wine volumes in Baden have been raised from 90 to 100 hl/ha. In all, a strong qualitative and quantitative vintage can be expected from Germany’s southernmost wine growing region.
Franken: Climate Change Comes to Call
The 2014 vintage kept Franken’s winemakers on tenterhooks. “The early signs of climate change, which can potentially bring us better berry ripeness on the one hand, but also increased problems with new pests and weather extremes on the other, were out in full force,” summarized the Bavarian State Institute for Viticulture and Horticulture (LWG) in Veitshöchheim, Germany. These extremes included a winter that was warmer and drier than normal, the sunniest March since 1953 and bud break 20 days earlier than average. The month of May however kicked off not just with a cold snap, but also with individual areas of frost damage. The fruit set for Müller-Thurgau began on 7 June, 13 days ahead of normal. And a heat wave in mid-June brought a quick end to the blossoms, with only sporadic incidents of coulure. July finally delivered the much-needed precipitation, in some cases as extreme storms. August, by contrast, brought too much rain and not enough high summer, leading the berries to absorb water, swell and in some cases burst. Intensive canopy management helped prevent further damage to the fruit. The bigger problem arose when the Spotted Wing Drosphilia began feeding on red wine grapes, thus forcing an early harvest to prevent total loss. A hailstorm on 11 September caused significant damages, including 20 – 30% of the Würzburger Stein site. In the pursuit of healthy berries, this year’s turbo-harvest in Franken was largely concluded by late September. But thanks to a dry and warm early October, the remaining grapes were able to achieve a truly optimal ripeness. Overall yields ended up below the originally highly positive expectations due to rigorous and necessary selection. The harvest volumes nevertheless totaled around 490,000 hl, or 13 percent above the figures from a year ago and still slightly above the long-established average. With average yields of 81 hl/ha and a mean must weight of 85 ° Oechsle, Franken’s winemakers can generally be pleased with the market prospects for the 2014 vintage.
Hessische Bergstraße: Satisfactory yield, so-so weather
The mild and rainy winter of 2013/2014 led to a good water supply for the vines. Rapid soil warming brought on by the dry, warm March in turn initiated the onset of an early vegetative phase. Pinot vines showed bud break on 2 April — 18 days ahead of the historical average and similarly early to the 2007, 2009 and 2011 vintages. Cooler and more changeable weather throughout the remainder of April stalled the accelerated growth and development before May warmed once again. Following rapid shoot growth, 22 May brought the first signs of flowering. Mid-summer temperatures around Pentecost brought on a ‘turbo-flowering’ in the Riesling vines, and by mid-June — roughly 17 to 18 days ahead of normal — the “peasized” stage had been reached. Beneficial temperatures and desired precipitation in the second week of July initially brought on rapid, consistent grape development that was once again slowed by a rainy and cool August. The Frühburgunder (Pinot Noir Précoce) harvest launched on 2 September. Careful attention was also given to the Dornfelder sites with the first appearance of the Spotted Wing Drosphilia. By late September two-thirds of the harvest had already been brought in on the Bergstraße. 70 to 74 hl/ha were harvested, figures closer to the historical norm than the meager yields of the past six years. The harvest volume totaled roughly 31,000 hectoliters, a much-welcomed 41% over the unusually small volumes of the year prior (22,000 hl) and roughly three percent over the ten-year average. Winemakers on the Hessische Bergstraße expressed satisfaction with the quality of the 2014 vintage. The share of Prädikat wines totalled around 70 percent.
Mittelrhein: Full of Surprises
Sometimes wine is like football: the game can turn around completely in the final minutes. Up until summer, winemakers on the Mittelrhein had been quite happy with the exceptionally warm and dry spring. The record-breaking early appearance of the first shoots on 8 April set an accelerated pace for flowering and fruit set with the anticipated promise of good clusters and large berries. “If the German national team in Brazil can gain ground like the vegetation in the vineyards right now, then the chances for a World Cup title are very good,” read an optimistic report from the official consulting service on 11 June. By 10 August and the onset of ripening in the Riesling grapes, however, that significant lead had been reduced to little more than a week; the cool and wet summer had slowed down the ripening tempo significantly. Must weights were rising by a mere 5 to 7 Oechsle degrees per week. In peak years, by contrast, levels sometimes jump by as much as 15 Oechsle degrees in the same time span. September then brought wet weather, including heavy rains that threatened the health of the grapes. The harvest had to move forward quickly and with a rigorous selection strategy. Yields from some vineyards were slashed by as much as half. One bit of consolation: The Spotted Wing Drosphilia did not pose a significant threat to the Mittelrhein due to the region’s minimal red grape plantings. Fine weather in early October allowed for a healthy remainder of the harvest, before steady rains from 7 – 9 October brought the challenging and changeable 2014 vintage to a quick close. On the whole, the volumes of around 33,000 hectoliters were significantly better than in the year prior (24,000 hl) and even bested the established average. The early harvest resulted in somewhat lighter must weights with Rieslings averaging 75° Oechsle. On the whole, the Mittelrhein can look forward to a pleasing 2014 vintage defined by a light and lively character.
Mosel: Year of Contradictions
Steady nerves and a skillful hand were required from the winemakers on the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer for the 2014 harvest. The capricious weather of summer and early autumn kept winemakers on their toes, and ultimately produced a number of — in some cases extreme — contradictions. Development began early with the first bud break on 10 April. Yet temperatures then dropped in the second half of the month, with damaging frost nights reported in some areas on 17 April and 4 May. Early June flowering had finished by the middle of the month in what many called a “picture-perfect flowering.” A wet summer promoted vigorous shoot growth, leaving the winemakers with their hands full maintaining the canopies and the good vine health throughout the remaining summer months. The warm winter, unfortunately, created an excellent environment for vineyard pests, with the Mosel registering its first ever appearance of the Spotted Wing Drosphilia. The pest’s preference for red grapes, only 10% of the Mosel’s total planting, was the region’s saving grace. The wet weather at harvest did put the harvesting teams to the test; to bring in healthy grapes, strict selection strategies needed to be undertaken early and quickly. Many estates had negotiated later starting dates with their harvesting teams and ended up hard-pressed to come up with the necessary personnel. The latest estimates see overall harvests on the Mosel as totaling around 900,000 hectoliters (2013: 627,000), although the results varied greatly by region: While winemakers in the Terrassenmosel (Lower Mosel region) harvested significantly less than expected, winemakers in parts of the Middle Mosel and Trier region were able to fetch higher yields. The high amount of labor and personal attention required of this harvest ultimately returned dividends to the estates which moved forward decisively. The majority of the harvested wines range from estate level to Spätlese, with average most values for Riesling totaling around 75 Oechsle degrees. Grapes classified as Auslesen, Beerenauslesen and Trockenbeerenauslesen were also harvested. The first 2014 wines have been noted as having high extract levels, with clean fruit flavors and a well-integrated acidity.
Nahe: All systems go
As with many of Germany’s other winegrowing regions, the vegetative phase in the Nahe began fast and furious. Riesling, for example, began producing shoots on 12 April, three weeks earlier than average. A smooth flowering some two weeks ahead of schedule led into a stalled ripening by a somewhat rainy August. The late August prediction for strong rains and potential hail forced the winemakers’ hands for a significantly early initial harvest. As summer came to a close, however, the strong water supply for the grapes gave winemakers much to be pleased about, with berries filled to bursting. Pockets of dry weather during the cool September translated into healthy grapes heading into the harvest. This was especially true in the estates where careful viticultural practices regarding canopy, soil and pest management had been employed to prevent Botrytis. Many of the Silvaner sites also produced notably healthy and fully ripe grapes. Although the infamous Spotted Wing Drosphilia arrived somewhat later to the Nahe region, in many cases it forced a very quick harvest of the red wine varieties (Frühburgunder, Regent, Portugieser and Dornfelder). Spätburgunder sites were less affected. With must weights and acid values landing around the expected averages, the harvest volumes were approx. 360,000 hectoliters, or 11 percent above the year prior. In their initial presentation, the young wines are showing as crisp and lively, with a well-integrated acidity.
Rheingau: Challenges mastered
The fourth warmest winter since 1885 meant that the Rheingau didn’t achieve the minus temperatures needed for an Eiswein harvest. This warm winter was then followed by an even warmer spring that in turn led to a record-breaking bud break on 7 April, the earliest date observed since record-keeping began in 1955. Such early bud breaks have traditionally brought with them the risk of late spring frosts; and indeed, in mid-April and on 4 May temperatures in certain vineyards dropped precipitously close to the freezing point, but ultimately did not cause major damage. A spell of cooler weather in late May led to flowering in the warm sites during the month’s final days. Otherwise early and mid-June ran optimally. Summer announced its arrival with a brief heat wave in June. While early July remained extremely dry, significant rains in the second half of the month balanced it out. July and August in fact produced twice the average levels of precipitation. This led to steadily climbing levels of disease pressure. While the cool August managed to keep the grapes healthy, it also slowed the development of the vines. Those who utilized careful canopy management with an eye towards ventilation were able to bring in a satisfactory harvest. Early ripening pushed the harvest two weeks ahead of schedule to mid September. And strong rains on 26 September meant that even the Riesling and Spätburgunder needed to be harvested earlier than planned. Yields were generally quite acceptable. With 250,000 hectoliters expected, harvest values are roughly 10 percent above the ten-year average and a full third higher year-over-year. “In 2014 the winegrowers once again faced significant challenges, but in mastering them they were able to bring in a harvest that is strong both in terms of quality and quantity,” notes Peter Seyffardt, president of the Rheingau Winegrowers Association.
Rheinhessen: Unstable weather, turbo-harvest, stable yields in the end
Although the year started out warm and dry with bud break in early April (4 – 10 April), the unexpected arrival of several biting cold snaps, particularly on 16 April and 4 May, required seriously steady nerves. Fortunately for the winemakers, the temperatures hovered just above freezing thus preventing serious frost damage. The cold May nights also caused the first flowering to stretch to 50 days after bud break — although still early when compared with average years. Things warmed up around Pentecost. Fruit set progressed quickly and synchronously, with overall development measuring 14 days ahead of schedule, much to the winemakers’ delight. The warm but extremely wet July reduced initial concerns about overly dry vineyards and brought rapid shoot growth, with as many as four rounds of canopy management required in some sites. August, however, was much too cool and wet, and many parts of Rheinhessen saw three times the normal amounts of precipitation. Despite this, initial density measurements found the grapes healthy and well developed. All signs including must weights and the first Federweißer — harvested early, on 8 August — pointed toward an outstanding vintage. September, however, had once again something else in mind. A steady period of mild and moist weather settled in, threatening the health of the grapes before the first week of September had drawn to a close. Although targeted canopy management helped keep this danger at bay, the first appearance of the Spotted Wing Drosphilia necessitated quick action. Many plots of Portugieser and Dornfelder in particular underwent a fast and unexpectedly early harvest. This year’s harvest required high levels of attention, multiple rounds of strict selection and a significantly larger harvest team. That said, most Rheinhessen estates completed their harvests in the first week of October, with good quality expected. On the whole, volumes in Germany’s largest winegrowing region totaled around 2.6 million hectoliters, roughly the same level as a year ago and in line with the tenyear average.
Pfalz: A tough year mastered, strong yields ahead
While just a year ago saw the latest bud break since 1987, in 2014 it appeared a full 18 days ahead of the long-established average for Rieslings. The region did not experience significant late frosts, with flowering beginning in early June, only slightly ahead of the longestablished average. Unusually warm temperatures on and around Pentecost led to rapid grape development. A lack of rain necessitated irrigation measures in late June for the newer vineyards. By late July the vegetation stood roughly three weeks ahead of the year prior and roughly ten days ahead of the average date from the past 25 years. The harvest for the early-ripening varieties to use in Federweißer kicked off by mid-August. The first reports of Spotted Wing Drosphilia sightings put winemakers on high alert in the vineyards, and led to early harvests (early September) for Dornfelder and other red wine varieties. By early October the white and late ripening varieties had been harvested — with ripe and healthy fruit. “We brought in grapes in very strong physiological condition, and look forward to a vintage of fresh, fruit-forward and balanced wines,” reports Klaus Scheinder, Vice-President of the Winegrower’s Association Pfalz. Although the weather meant that top must weights were more exception than rule, the young wines nevertheless seem highly promising. The white varietals are presenting a balanced interplay of sweetness and acidity, with restrained alcohol levels. Total harvest figures for the Pfalz are estimated at 2.2 million hectoliters, which conforms to the long-established average.
Saale-Unstrut: Fruity quality wines, strong yields
The winter was warm and dry, and unfortunately failed to reach the minus temperatures needed for Eiswein until late January. On the whole, it was a notably warm winter that averaged roughly 3°C above than the historical average. This eased the winemakers’ concerns about bud damage and let them hope for strong shoot development. The only real point of worry were the low precipitation levels — one measurement station within the region measured a mere 35 mm of rainfall during the first three months. Spring temperatures remained very mild, leading to a bud break almost three weeks ahead of the historical average. Pest caterpillars emerged as a threat, eating and damaging the new buds. April and May saw sufficient levels of rain. In mid-May temperatures warmed significantly, maintaining the roughly three-week accelerated development schedule. A dry and warm June brought about flowering from 13 June onwards, in what was ultimately a quick and smooth process, and in turn led to a very early fruit set. An initial dry period ended with stormy weather and hail, however, which caused heavy damage to the young grapes in certain spots in and around Freyburg. Fortunately the damaged grapes quickly dried off again. It rained often between July and September, with high relative humidity and a corresponding threat of infection that necessitated a rapid and selective harvest starting on 9 September. The harvest work was completed by mid-October. In Germany’s northernmost winegrowing region, the estimates call for average yields of 60 hl/ha, with a slightly above-average overall volume of roughly 45,000 hectoliters. Many of the estate-level wines will end up slender, light and fruit-forward with a few specialty wines in the Prädikat range.
Sachsen: Low yield, good estate-level wines
Germany’s easternmost wine region saw bud break almost two weeks earlier than the historical average, and flowering began on 8 June under very advantageous conditions. After months of notably dry weather, June, however, saw 60 liters of precipitation per square meter. In some cases this precipitation fell as hail that caused damages in certain spots around the region. At the start of the harvest in early September, the conditions seemed prime for an uncomplicated harvest with satisfactory yields of healthy, well-ripened fruit. Heavy rains and high relative humidity levels forced harvest schedules for medium and slowripening varieties to be bumped up in order to ensure healthy grapes. By early October most estates had completed their harvests, in many cases having to pull in extra harvest staff to enable rapid but selective work. Sachsen is estimating harvest volumes of around 18,000 hl for 2014, slightly below the average volume and corresponding to an average yield of just 40 hl/ha. The estate wines stand out for their characteristic and true-to varietal aromas and refreshing acidity. The share of Prädikat wines is estimated at around 20 percent.
Württemberg: Early harvest, healthy grapes
For the first time since 1947, the region experienced a winter so extraordinarily mild and dry that no real snow cover ever formed. It was also the warmest, driest March since the early 1970s. On 26 March, temperatures fell below the freezing point leading to some early bud damage. Bud break itself began unusually early (around 10 April), then another round of subzero temperatures on 16 April caused more isolated frost damage. The entire spring, including May, was markedly dry, as was sunny June. Fruit set took place two weeks earlier than the historical average and progressed very rapidly. Some incidents of coulure were reported, although as a silver lining the resulting loose clusters were less susceptible to Botrytis during veraison. July was warm and very wet, and the region’s water reservoirs were fully recharged. The grapes continued to develop rapidly during the warm August as well. By the end of summer the vines were uniformly well developed and healthy. Harvest started on 15 September with the Müller-Thurgau grapes. A close watch was kept on the Spotted Wing Drosphilia, and any sites threatened by its presence were harvested early. In all, Württemberg’s winemakers expect a yield of roughly one million hectoliters. If these estimates hold, it would fall slightly below average but still 14 percent higher than last year’s poor results. Must weights for the white wines were somewhat above the historical mean. Roughly 20 percent of the harvested grapes were Prädikat wines, while the remaining 80 percent will be classified as estate wines.
Deutsches Weininstitut, Press Office
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