Germany 2003: Keep
A great year for red wines—elegant and relatively ripe
The whole Germany experienced extremely hot conditions, from Sachsen in the former East Germany to Baden in the southwest. The early ripening and ensuing hot summer not only led to speedy ripening – in general about three weeks ahead of normal – but, inevitably to drought stress. With scarcely a drop of rain for eight weeks, vines were competing for increasingly scant water supplies in the soil. Green-harvesting was common at quality-conscious estates as the only way to ensure that quality would be high and water stress minimal. Irrigation was permitted, but few growers are equipped with drip irrigation systems. However, some estates such as Gunderloch in the Rheinhessen, swiftly installed drip irrigation in order to save parcels of vulnerable vines in their top vineyards.
In the Mosel and elsewhere, a spell of rain in early September helped restore many parched vines. By late September average sugar levels at top Mosel estates were very high and acidities, while on the low side, had stabilised.
It was clear that the crucial decision would be when to harvest. Pick too early and the wines could have the necessary acidity but could lack phenolic ripeness. The longer growers waited for that phenolic ripeness, the more the acidity levels would plummet. Nonetheless by early October many quality-conscious estates in the Mosel had not yet begun the Riesling harvest, since the grapes were in healthy condition and there was no rush to harvest, other than continuing worries about low acidity.
Franken and Württemberg had the same dry hot conditions as further north, leading to excellent red wines, and some problematic white wines, with very high sugars but also with high pH.
For reds, the northern Nahe and the Pfalz. For whites, the Pfalz, Baden and Rheingau