Vintage 2014 in Germany
Information supplied by Johannes Selbach, owner, Selbach-Oster
- 26 January 2015-
The winter of 2013/2014 was extremely mild. Little frost we had in the wine regions, it was not a severe cold and the few cold spells did not last long enough to freeze the soil nor kill pests.The warm winter gave way to an early and warm spring throughout Southwest Germany. Budbreak was very early, so was flowering and growth of the berries to pea size. From March through June, temperatures were higher and the precipitation was lower than the 10-year median. Flowering occurred under perfect, very warm if not too hot day and warm night temperatures and the onset of fruit was excellent, indicating the potential for a full crop. By the end of June the sum of accumulated heat degrees indicated we might have a record warm year, even on the 100 year scale. At the same time the vineyards in almost all of Germany were dealing with drought stress. The long awaited rain came in July, the temperatures remained very warm. August turned to be a cool and wet month. The first half of September, too, stayed cool and wet. The temperatures warmed up in the second half of the month, humidity levels remained high. The grapes caught up nicely from both drought stress in June and cold weather in August and, at the end of September, were thin-skinned and building up good sugar levels. While this was good news, there was bad news by means of a new pest and the lingering, high humidity in combination with very warm weather.
The total German harvest is estimated at 9.242,000 hectoliters (1 hl equals 100 liters). 2013 yielded 8.432,000 hectoliters and the average of 2004-2013 lies at 9,165.000 hectoliters. The two largest regions, Pfalz (2.225,000 hl) and Rheinhessen (2.550,00 hl) had large, stable crops in ’14, almost identical with 2013 and with the 10 year median. The Mosel came to 895,000.00 hl, up significantly over ’13 and 8% above the 10 year median. This was due to a large crop of the ancient “Elbling” grapes in the southern part of the Mosel with abundant yields while the traditional, steep Riesling vineyards of the middle and the lower Mosel produced significantly lower yields and an overall much smaller crop.
While farming practices and foliage work made a difference everywhere, the local and regional microclimate weighed in more pronouncedly in 2014 because of significantly different intensity and quantity of rainfall (even hail, see before) in the 2nd half of September and in October.
Harvest started under fine conditions with a warm, dry period from 20th September until the 6th of October. Much of the crop of the premium varietals (Pinot family, Riesling) in the South was brought in during that time. The majority of the northern regions (Nahe, Mosel, Rheingau, Mittelrhein and Ahr) started harvesting those varietals in the 1st week of October. From 6th October, warm day and night temperatures and frequent rain showers produced thin-skinned berries and a perfect environment for fruit flies. This was accelerated by the rapid spreading of spores from botrytis cinerea and other fungi. In a race against the clock, every available hand and (in flat or sloping vineyards) every available mechanical harvester, were mobilized to bring in the crop, leading to what has been dubbed a „turbo harvest“ in Germany.
What to expect from 2014:
It is difficult to make a statement about the 2014 red wines though it is safe to say that Pinot Noir/Spätburgunder fared much better than the other red varietals, courtesy of the Pinot Noir’s relative hardiness. Earlier ripening varietals, notably Dornfelder, were more severely affected by „suzukii“. For whites it is safe to say the early ripening grapes (Mueller-Thurgau et al) brought very good yields and good quality. The premium grapes which followed later were more affected by the unstable weather and, as the harvest went on, were affected by botrytis, not all of it noble, necessitating meticulous sorting. Where this was done right, the yields shrunk significantly though it was rewarded by excellent ripeness, concentration and very good acidity levels. Overall, the Pinots Blancs and Pinots Gris look very promising. The Rieslings are crisp, delicious, with bright, aromatic fruit and harmonious acidity. Expect very fine wines in both dry and fruity style!
The larger portion of the 2014 German crop which was picked early, brought good yields and qualifies largely as „Qualitaetswein“ while the much smaller portion, harvested later at lower yields, qualifies for making „Praedikat“ wines up to Auslese. Eiswein has not been made to date. Bottomline, 2014 produced a normal size crop of very good, in parts even excellent quality. The making of 2014 caused extra hard and extra long work, making it a very expensive harvest.