Destruction in the Ahr Valley

Floods in the Ahr Valley seen from above with submerged train and cars

Michael, who has also filed the third part of his survey of 2020 Mosels today, reports from the centre of the German region worst affected by last week's terrifying floods. Details of an easy way to donate immediately to those whose lives and wineries have been devastated are at the top of this report.

23 July 2021 Other possible accounts for donations include

VDP Account
Der VDP.Adler hilft e.V.
Rheingauer Volksbank
IBAN: DE 21 5109 1500 0000 2045 28
BIC: GENODE51RGG
Reference: Solidarität Ahr Weinbau
 
or via PayPal to:
Betreff: Solidarität Ahr Weinbau
 
21 July 2021 Video footage of post-flood wreckage in Ahrweiler.

20 July 2021 Jancis adds The account for donations to support Ahr winegrowers that Michael describes below is now set up – details as follows:

Account holder: AHR A wineregion needs Help for Rebuilding eV
Bank: KSK Ahrweiler
Kreissparkasse Ahrweiler
Wilhelmstrasse 1-7
53474 Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler 
Germany

Bank branch number: MALADE51AHR
IBAN: DE94 5775 1310 0000 3395 07

We are big fans of the popular transfer service offered by Wise.com. Their charges are a fraction of those of the big banks and the money is transferred within hours rather than days. Using the information above, we have just made a payment which Wise.com assure us will be in the Ahr account within five hours.

Michael and his wife have been offering lodging to those who are helping the affected. The alternative is a local hall with 100 camp beds all very close together. The situation really is dire.

Michael adds Some of you may have experienced difficulties using Wise.com, depending on which country you tried to make your donations from. This is something to do with additional requirements for information by the tax authorities. Wise is a bona fide institution, but they have to comply with these requirements to avoid money laundering or fraud. We are in the process of getting this information, but our fund has just today been registered through a notary with the local court and tax office. This will delay things for a day or two. We suggested Wise because their transfer rate is by far the lowest, but you can obviously also use your own bank or any other big bank. They will just want a bigger slice of the cake than Wise. Choose whichever you want, but PLEASE do not be put off from making your donation. We will ensure a fair and transparent allocation of funds to all growers, big and small.

19 July 2021 Some of our readers may be aware that my wife and I live in the town of Ahrweiler, which from last Wednesday afternoon until Thursday morning was transformed from paradise (see my 20th anniversary video) to a living hell for countless numbers of people.

The whole of the Ahr region was hit by an unimaginable deluge of rain, which led to a sudden build-up of masses of water which swept through the valley in the middle of the night, devastating everything that stood in its way.

Each and every bridge in the valley was destroyed, roads flooded and damaged, many villages were destroyed and some are still isolated. Houses were demolished, cars piled up or swept downriver. Worst of all, many lives were lost, with numbers now exceeding 150 and many people still missing.

As car wrecks are being pulled out of the river or ponds that have turned into lakes, more bodies of those who were tragically trapped in their vehicles are being found. The emergency services are at breaking point; the army has moved in; sirens are going 24 hours a day; and many helicopters are in continuous flight to lift people from perilous situations and to bring in supplies, as most access roads are cut off. Most of you will have seen reports of this disaster.

When my wife and I came to Ahrweiler in 2009, we moved to one of the most beautiful regions in the world. For hundreds, probably thousands, of people in the area it has turned into a living nightmare. Many businesses, large or small and a great deal of them depending on tourism, struggled gallantly through the pandemic, hoping for the crisis to come to an end. In the last few weeks light seemed to appear at the end of the tunnel.

The floods have extinguished any glimmer of hope. Many existences have been destroyed. The business of the Ahr Valley is wine, and I did actually manage to speak to a grower friend of mine whose estate is about 500 m (0.3 mile) away from our home in Ahrweiler town. He has been luckier than some, as his bottles and barrels are still floating in his cellar. Whether the wine has been contaminated or not, he has not been able to establish yet. One of his delivery vans and a Caterpillar tractor in the vineyards, bought last year for €120,000, have been carried away by the waves.

Many colleagues up the valley fared far worse. I was told that Meyer-Näkel have lost everything: bottles, barrels, cellar equipment, cars, machinery. How badly the actual foundations of the winery have been damaged is as yet unknown. Another, smaller but well-known, producer nearby is facing absolute ruin as he was not insured for a case like this. I can only guess that theirs is not an isolated case.

At the same time my friend was able to tell me about what he called an unbelievable amount of support offered by winegrowers from all over the country. Several funds have already been established for donations, but the stark reality is that not everybody will be saved. Almost all wine estates, or what is left of them, are located more or less in the immediate vicinity of the river. In the mid-nineteenth century Ahr growers faced their biggest existential crisis, which led to the founding of Germany’s first vintners’ co-operative, securing the survival of the industry. It will take an even greater effort of solidarity to do it all over again.

Added later I have been to talk to Marc Adeneuer, president of the VDP chapter Ahr, whose estate is just down the road from me and who is the sort of rock whose shoulder is much in demand to be cried upon at the moment. He has given me an overview of what is happening in other villages, getting there by jeep through the vineyards.

He has told me that our local bank has set up a fund, starting it with €500,000 of the bank's capital. He will be able to let me have the official account details tomorrow. He's a strong man, but he had tears in his eyes when he heard that JancisRobinson.com is willing to make an appeal to the international wine community.

I am glad that you know Wise.com. I would have said they are as safe as houses, but will have to change that phrase to safer than houses.

I have had a short reply from them and they will get back to me tomorrow.

Hopefully, we will be able within one or two days to supply the international wine community with account and transfer details for any donations they are willing to make. It will be a fund distributed among all growers, large and small. To keep everything above board and totally clear in terms of allocations, Marc Adeneuer does not wish to do this on his own and wants to have a team of three or four people to discuss and implement allocations. He has asked me to be on that team.

While I was there I could see a lot of helpers and they had come from wine estates in the Nahe, Pfalz, Rheinhessen etc. Water was pumped out through hoses that Emrich Schönleber usually use to pump their Grosse Gewächse through. Maybe they will have extra minerality next year?

In all that mess they have to think of the coming harvest. The crop will have to be processed elsewhere. No Ahr estate will be ready in time to do that.