|Mainz, 08.November 2007|
|German Wine Vintage 2007 – Excellent Qualities
and Good Yields
Thanks to early bud burst and optimal autumn weather, German wine grapes had an unusually long growing season in 2007. This year’s harvest was relatively unhurried and took place over several weeks. Grape musts and young wines are showing well, with a fabulous wealth of aromas, high ripeness and extract levels, and a well-integrated, harmonious – yet marked – acidity.
After last year’s small harvest, growers are also very satisfied with the size of this year’s crop: in all, estimated to be ca. 10.5 – 11 million hectoliters. A résumé of this year’s harvest in the 13 wine-growing regions, compiled by the German Wine Institute/Mainz, follows.
Vintage 2007 – Regional Conditions
In Baden, the harvest ended in mid-October and Baden vintners view 2007 as a very good vintage. The harvest itself and its results are described as a “dream of a harvest.” Equally wonderful were the weather conditions – a golden October – calm autumn weather with cool nights and sunny days that fostered the development of a spectrum of aromas. Wine lovers can look forward to outstanding wines from the 2007 vintage. According to a local wine-growers’ advisor: “Across the board, regardless of variety, the aromas and color of these wines are extraordinary. We haven’t seen the likes of this for quite some time.” Not only were there impressive must weights for Spätburgunder and Riesling, but also specialties, such as Gewürztraminer or Gutedel, showed well. After the first tastings of the young wines, cellar masters are describing the vintage as remarkable for its grandiose wealth of aromas, as well as its perceptible, yet well-integrated, wine acidity. They expect red wines with great depth of color and longevity. Not only is the high quality welcome, but also the quantity harvested – to help alleviate shortages after several small crops. In all, Baden’s 16,000 ha yielded a crop of ca. 1.2 million hl, with an average yield of 85 hl/ha – more than in 2006.
The harvest in Franken started in early September – but growers with patience were rewarded with a sunny October. After a damp summer, very selective harvesting was necessary in order to achieve (ultimately) quite satisfactory results. The first Müller-Thurgau wines of 2007 are aromatic, fresh and fruity; Silvaner, another important varietal in Franken, is showing a fine, elegant note. Only Bacchus grapes had a lower-than-average yield, due to sunburn. About three quarters of the wine musts reached Prädikat wine levels; the average must weight was a remarkably high 87 degrees Oechsle. The region’s 6,000 ha of vineyards yielded somewhat more than half a million hl, with an average yield of 85 hl/ha. This is a seven percent increase in quantity over the year before, which will help replenish low stocks prior to the harvest.
The Hessische Bergstrasse, Germany’s second smallest wine region, is known above all for its Rieslings, but other varieties are at home there, too. At the end of August, for example, the Frühburgunder harvest began. In mid-October, after the Riesling harvest, the last Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were gathered. Growers willing to postpone the start of their harvest were able to achieve considerably higher qualities, particularly with their Riesling grapes. For the first time, red Riesling was harvested. This rarity is believed to be a forerunner of the white Riesling we know today. Spätburgunder must weights were remarkably high; Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) required a very selective harvest and yields were disappointingly low. Overall, the crop was a good 35,000 hl, with an average yield of 85 hl/ha – significantly more than in 2006, when quantities barely met supply. For this reason, the first bottlings of 2007 are expected on the market in early November.
The harvest in the Mittelrhein began in mid-September with a few early-ripening varieties, but the main harvest didn’t end until the last week of October. Both quantity and quality are remarkable in this Riesling region. The overall yield is somewhat above the long-term average and considerably above the year before. In all, some 40,000 hl are expected, equal to a yield of 90 hl/ha. Riesling, in particular, benefited from the long growing season, with optimal proportions of sugar (average of 100 degrees Oechsle) to acidity. Red grapes, such as Spätburgunder, were also harvested in a healthy state, at up to 100 degrees Oechsle, with a slightly higher acidity than the year before.
Due to the northerly location of the region and the significance of the late-ripening varietal Riesling, it comes as no surprise that the Mosel growers are among the last to start harvesting. Müller-Thurgau and Elbling (ancient white variety, cultivated primarily in the upper Mosel, along the border with Luxembourg) were picked in the second half of September; the Riesling harvest began in October and – in estates with holdings in steep sites, where harvesting can only be done by hand – lasted the entire month. Ideal weather, with mostly dry, sunny autumn days as well as cool (at times cold) nights, made for a stress-free harvest. These weather conditions enabled growers to harvest their crop at an optimal ripeness level. The 2007 wines from the valleys of the Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer are expected to be particularly rich in minerals and extracts. Steep-site Riesling grapes had considerable time to absorb minerals from the slate soil – ultimately reflected in a wine’s aroma and flavor. This year’s growing season (the time between blossoming and harvest) was particularly long: 100 days is the norm; in 2007: 120 to 150 days. Consumers can expect well-structured wines with straightforward fruit aromas/flavors. Must weights primarily reached Prädikat levels, often 100 degrees Oechsle and above. The region’s nearly 9,000 ha yielded an estimated 925,000 hl and thus, some 85,000 hl more than in 2006.
The Müller-Thurgau harvest in mid-September marked the start of the harvest in the Nahe, ending with the Riesling harvest in the second half of October. Patience was rewarded – particularly for Riesling, which achieved must weights of 90 to 95 degrees Oechsle. Cool October nights slowed down a reduction in acidity in the white wine varietals, and the young wines have a harmonious ratio of ripeness to crispness. Red varietals, too, profited from a later harvest: Spätburgunder grapes reached Oechsle levels well over 80 degrees. In all, a considerable amount of Prädikatswein is expected. Yields: 100 hl/ha – good news for Nahe growers. An estimated 430,00 hl were harvested – a fourth more than in the preceding year.
Earlier than usual – mid-August – some growers in the Pfalz harvested grapes for Federweisser (fermenting grape juice) and the last of the new wine was sold at the end of October. The harvest in the Pfalz usually takes place over months – unlike the stressful and hectic circumstances a year ago. In contrast to the year before, this year’s sunny autumn led to a considerable increase in must weights for both white and red varietals, which in turn, has led to an exceptionally high niveau of red and white wines. Acidity values are higher than in the “esteemed” vintage 2003 – particularly good news for Riesling wines. The harvest was relatively large – 2.5 million hl – and is welcome to meet demand. Quality is also well above average. Growers had time to harvest at the optimal time of ripeness, taking into consideration the various growth periods of different varietals, and could fill their portfolios accordingly. Consumers can expect a great selection of very good wines at all quality levels.
Rheingau growers began harvesting in mid-September, with young wines showing a prominent acidity. A month later, the Rieslings were more harmonious and riper, with higher must weights. Export-oriented wineries that specialize in lusciously sweet wines harvested until the end of October. Already in October, a traditional wine estate achieved a record must weight of more than 300 degrees Oechsle. In some vineyards, grapes are still hanging – in hopes of an Eiswein harvest. Under ideal autumn weather conditions, every grower could harvest exactly what was needed for his/her portfolio. The end of the growing season was particularly favorable for the most important grape variety of the Rheingau, Riesling. It’s said to be a “typical” Riesling vintage. The region’s most important red variety, Spätburgunder, also achieved high ripeness levels at the hand of patient wine-growers. Growers welcome the above-average crop – many a wine on a price list was sold out. The yield was above 80 hl/ha, in all at least a total of 250,000 hl. The excellent quality of vinage 2007 is also reflected by increased demand for bulk wines.
In Germany’s largest wine-growing region, Rheinhessen, this year’s harvest is described as quite good, often compared with the 2002 and 2004 vintages. Many a grower is not sparing with superlatives, such as “wonderful qualities after an ideal autumn” or “sensational vintage.” Grapes were picked throughout September, but it was primarily the grapes harvested in October that achieved the above-average ripeness levels that are the hallmark of this vintage. As such, the growing season for some vines stretched over 140 days rather than the necessary absolute minimum of 100 days. This was optimal for Riesling, which showed its best with an average must weight of 85 degrees Oechsle, as well as for Rheinhessen’s other traditional varietals, e.g. Silvaner (80 degrees Oechsle) and Pinots, which for the most part, were harvested with 90 degrees Oechsle. Warm days and cold nights yielded elegant wines with brisk acidity, fruitiness, and an expressive play of aromas. Harvest yields are estimated at 115 hl/ha, well above average, for a total yield of 2.9 million hl.
Although the vineyards suffered damage due to weather conditions – late frost in May, sunburn in July – the size of the crop in Saale-Unstrut is about that of last year’s good level. About 42,000 hl are expected, or a third more than usual. Since the development of the grapes was ahead of schedule, growers were able to start harvesting in early September. Some estates waited until the second half of October. The crop was healthy and posed no problems for cellar masters. Thanks to the long growing season, the wines are quite aromatic, very fruity, and marked by a lively acidity. With regard to quantity and quality: a good to very good vintage.
In Sachsen, more than two weeks earlier than usual, the harvest began in August, with the region’s early-ripening specialty, the rare Goldriesling (a Riesling x Courtillier Musqué crossing). For the most part, the harvest had ended by mid-October, not least because several rainy days prompted growers to quicken their pace. A primarily healthy crop was brought in, before the damp weather could lead to rot. Ripeness and acidity levels were, respectively, satisfactory and quite good – this bodes particularly well for Gewürztraminer. Overall, the wines of Germany’s smallest wine-growing region – less than 500 ha/1,235 acres – are rarities and regularly sold out, even at relatively high prices. Despite the good quantity harvested in 2007, this situation is not likely to change. Estimated quantity: 20,000 hl.
The harvest in Württemberg – a six-week period of picking that ended in the second half of October – yielded good qualities and a marketable quantity. Yields are estimated to be 110 hl/ha, with an overall quantity of 1.2 to 1.3 million hl. Württemberg’s strength lies in the red wine sector (ca. 75 percent of the harvest), with varieties such as Trollinger, Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier), and Lemberger (Blaufränkisch). Yields for Trollinger and Lemberger were slightly above average, whereas yields for early-ripening white varieties, such as Kerner or Müller-Thurgau, fell short of the long-term average. The Riesling crop, however, was larger than last year and will help alleviate supply problems for the region’s most important white varietal. The overall harvesting period was able to be extended, thanks to mild weather, influenced by high pressure. In addition, this fostered both an increase in must weights and the development of ripe aromas – reflected in the first bottlings of white wines of the new vintage.