The German Wine Institute gives the wines of the 2020 vintage a rating of very good. After a warm and sunny early spring the vines began to sprout buds in April. In May the occurrence of frost in the three-day period known as the Ice Saints dented hopes of a plentiful crop, particularly in the regions of Württemberg, Franken, Sachsen and Saale-Unstrut, while Rheinhessen and the Pfalz, which account for over half of the country’s vineyards, remained fairly unscathed.
Growers in the Mosel were fairly happy too, as their final crop lay about 10% above the long-term annual average.
Flowering began early, well ahead of the norm for the last 30 years, at the end of May. A subsequent long stretch of hot and dry weather throughout the summer months meant that in most regions the main harvest started as early as the end of August. As so many varieties ripened at the same time, this put considerable pressure on growers to harvest their crop in an unusually short period, leading them to call it the Turboherbst (turbo autumn). Most of the grapes were in the cellar by the end of September. To retain maximum freshness of fruit many producers picked in the early morning hours, some of them even in the middle of the night.
Grapes for red wine particularly benefited from the hot weather, and early assessments revealed wines with good intensity of colour, velvety texture and concentrated fruit. But as always there were some flies in the ointment too in 2020. Lack of precipitation was a problem once again and, although the hot, dry weather was generally beneficial for the grapes, for the second year running some grapes were lost through sunburn. (Our picture shows sunburnt grapes at Kloster Eberbach in the Rheingau in July 2019.) This could become the main problem for German growers in the future, although in terms of quantity, the total 2020 harvest of 8.6 million hl was well above the figure for 2019 and close to the average for the last 10 years.
My first impressions of the early-bottled wines such as Gutsweine trocken, Kabinett and Spätlesen are encouraging, as most of the wines I have tasted showed a good balance of fruit and acidity. Of course it will be interesting to see what the Grosse Gewächse, which we shall start to assess at the end of August, will be like, but it has to be remembered that they represent only a small fraction of the overall harvest. Gutsweine and Ortsweine are the bread-and-butter wines, and they are looking good.