A vintage of contrasts. Hot and very dry conditions for much of the year meant that growers had low to no disease pressure, and the Sahara-like conditions continued right up into September. Yet harvest volumes were up by 2% on the long-term average, according to the German Wine Institute, and the wines – thanks in part to a summer dormancy of sorts – are surprisingly cool and light. More detail from Paula Sidore here.
Wet, wet, wet is how Paula Sidore summed up 2021. Nationwide harvest volume was 8,733,000 hl, three percent above 2020, but yields varied widely from region to region and even within a single region, depending on the weather. The cool, wet spring lead into copious rains that began in June and didn't stop until September; disease pressure became high in the summer heat. Rigorous selection and attention in the vineyard was essential. The Ahr saw disaster the during the night of 14/15 July, when the river burst its banks, causing significant damage for 60 of the region's 65 winegrowers. But a dry, sunny, cool fall proved the saving grace for the fruit remaining on the vines; even some Eiswein was made in a late-December cold snap.
The German Wine Institute rated the 2020 vintage very good, with a harvest of 8.6 million hl – well above 2019. After a warm and sunny early spring the vines began to sprout buds in April. In May, frost dented hopes of a plentiful crop, particularly in Württemberg, Franken, Sachsen and Saale-Unstrut, while Rheinhessen and the Pfalz remained fairly unscathed. Flowering began early, at the end of May, and hot and dry weather throughout the summer months meant that in most regions the main harvest started as early as the end of August. So many varieties ripened at the same time that growers called it the Turboherbst (turbo autumn). 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. More detail from Michael Schmidt here.
Quantity is small, but expectations are great. The summer was dry and hot, with extremely high temperatures leading to a substantial reduction of the crop due to sunburn. Fortunately two rainy weeks in August supplied vines with the water so desperately needed. September saw the return of the sun and most of the fruit was picked before rainy weather set in again at the end of the month. Acidity levels were higher than in 2018, nurturing hopes for the best vintage of the century so far.
A hot and dry vintage produced a bumper crop of the healthiest grapes seen for decades. Growers were jubilant and early prediction prophesied a vintage of the century. Few producers managed to realise that promise, many of them letting their grapes enjoy the sun for too long. The result was plenty of smooth dry Riesling with seductive fruit, but not enough acidity to hit the heights of vibrancy. Nevertheless, exceptional growers made exceptional wines. A good year for noble sweet wines.
Like much of France, Germany’s harvest was small and early, with spring frost mainly responsible for the low yields. Midsummer rains increased the disease pressure, which has compromised quality in the lower ranks. Producers who gambled on a very late harvest and selected only the healthiest of fruit were rewarded with outstanding wines from Riesling and Spätburgunder. Riper, sweeter categories flourished.
High rainfall in early summer created serious disease pressure, especially in Nahe and Mosel. What with late frost and hail, prospects for the 2016 harvest did not look good. However, the weather improved from July onwards and the overall quality is good, while the wines tend to be lower in alcohol and higher in acidity than 2015.
Yields across the country met the ten-year average, though they varied from region to region. In the Mosel, for instance, quality is especially promising but yields were 8% down on 2014. The Rheingau is also tipped for excellence. Rieslings very good but rarely exciting, while all the Pinots including Spätburgunder are generally opulent, sometimes even a bit flabby.
‘Too cold and too wet’ is the general summary for Germany in 2014. Yields were higher than the much smaller preceding vintage, but quality is surmised as 'good, bad and ugly' by Michael Schmidt, with the proviso that the better producers are inevitably the better performers.
A chill spring and fine, mild summer gave way to wet weather in September and October which proved many producers’ undoing. Astute vineyard management was essential to coax grapes to ripeness and avoid rot. Low yields. Quality initially underrated, but producers meticulous enough in their selection in many cases made wines superior to anything since 2008. Invigorating acidity makes this a vintage for laying down. Outstanding for Spätburgunder.
A cool, wet summer in Germany, saved by late warmth in September and October. Yields were overall in line with long term averages, although the Mosel lost up to 25% of its crop. Quality is widely agreed to be very good indeed, and dry Riesling as well as Spätburgunder managed to flatter early, but could be found lacking in acidity. To be drunk sooner rather than later. Noble sweet wines are in even smaller supply than usual.
Extremely good quality, with yields back at average after two more depressed years. There is palpable excitement about these wines, with top quality examples across the board from trocken Riesling and Spätburgunder and record-breaking noble whites.
A tricky, high-acid vintage, with low sunshine and high rain. Despite this, July was extremely hot, skewing the average temperature to well above average. Yields were devastated. Riesling generally too sharp, but some growers taking a risk on late harvesting managed wines positively charged with tension. Absolutely outstanding for noble sweet wines because of their riveting acidity. Very long-lived.
Amongst the greatest vintages, 2009 is proving very alluring at a very early stage. The growing season was dry, warm and reliable. The wines are ripe and appealing with lots of fruit, but in many cases lack a little bit of edge. 12% down on volume compared to 2008.
A very late-ripening vintage marked by cool autumn temperatures. Like 2004 very underrated initially because of their prominent acidity. Wines took longer to peak, but were absolutely outstanding once they found their balance. Very few botrytis wines were made, but there was a reasonable crop of Eiswein.
Unusual vintage during which a hot April and record early flowering was followed by a very cool summer but then the grapes were ripened, after a suitably extended growing season, by a very fine autumn. A distinct shortage of Kabinett. Even top wines in the dry category peaked early.
A less than glorious summer and autumn rain bounced many growers into picking earlier than they would have liked, as rampant rot threatened. Very careful selection was needed and it is even more important than usual to stick to the top producers.
Exceptional vintage combining the luscious fruit of 2003 with the minerality and structure of 2004. Quantities were low but, to compensate growers financially, noble rot took hold very rapidly in the autumn so that large quantities of Beerenauslese and TBA were made, of especial note in the Saar.
Yet again autumn rescued the wines after a less than wonderful summer. Yields were relatively high but the wines have good crisp acidity and fine focus. Start drinking these around 2008. Overshadowed initially by 2003 and 2005, but far more dynamic in the long run.
Uncomfortably hot year for the Riesling vine, and even more of an assault on varieties such as Grauburgunder and Weissburgunder with their naturally lower acid levels. But some exceptional wines were made at the top of the tree.
German growers were in general much happier than their French counterparts throughout the summer but many were finally caught out by rain before harvest in October which meant that very few wines above Auslese quality resulted and the rather soft wines have aged relatively rapidly.
A very great, long-term vintage with remarkable levels of both grape ripeness (thanks to a wonderful Indian summer) and acidity (thanks to a nerve-wrackingly wet but cool September). A high proportion of botrytised sweet wines were made – in fact there was such a shortage of basic QbA wine that considerable amounts were declassified to satisfy market demand.
Very difficult vintage. Early optimism was finally dashed by September rains which severely compromised the health of the grapes. In many cases the earliest-picked grapes were the best because they were the least affected by rot. Early-picked Spätburgunders were relatively unscathed.
Everything was going so well...until the rains which began on 20 September and continued throughout the harvest. Careful selection was needed and in some cases yields were too high for real quality. Acids were generally low but some delicious wines for relatively early drinking were made by the best producers.
Despite a wet growing season the wines showed vibrant acidity and bright fruit. Eiswein was made in some quantity.
Early, large crop of very attractive wines – generally clustered around Spätlese level of ripeness, although there are some lovely Mosel Auslesen.
Attractive, lightish Mosels and southern wines with more stuffing. A very good year for Eiswein.
An unusually warm summer was followed by a cold, wet late August and September so that the bulk of wine produced was rather ordinary, but the late, great Riesling showed its stuff in the Mosel after a very warm October.
Horribly variable, but Riesling showed its class with superb quality from the good estates.
A nerve-racking year. Rain hit the early harvests but patient growers picked grapes with welcome botrytis. Some fine wines still showing well.
Not bad, particularly in the Rhine. Estates had to control yields to overcome dilution from the rains and maintain balance.
Ripe, crisp, even slightly austere wines, just the stuff for Kabinetts!
Europe's wonder year: a perfect autumn with plenty of late-picked sweet wines after a botrytis bonanza.
A phenomenal harvest. The late-harvested Rieslings show profound complexity. Probably best in the Mosel.
Overshadowed by two remarkable years, this is still an excellent vintage of elegance and fruit.
Classy and stylish, these show how well Riesling ages.