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August rainfall ‘saved’ Germany 2015 harvest

After an exceptionally dry summer in Germany, the grapes were were 'saved' by rain in August - but still resulted in late ripening, lower quantity and high alcohol for the German 2015 vintage.

‘The vines protected themselves by reducing their vegetative growth, but after many consecutive days when temperatures rose above 40 degrees, they were at their limit,’ said Lorenz Neder, winemaker for Weingut Ewald Neder in Franconia.

‘Luckily, rainfall at the beginning of August – necessary to ripen the grapes – saved the vintage.’

The grapes did not start ripening until the second half of September, later than usual, because of the drought, according to Neder. This meant the earlier ripening varieties – such as Müller-Thurgau – had to be harvested relatively quickly, due to the slightly higher pH and lower acidity levels.

However, varieties with a longer ripening period, such as Silvaner and Riesling, benefited from the sunny weather at the beginning of October.

Lower quantity

The dry summer does also mean ‘the total quantity of this year’s harvest is likely to fall a bit short of the ten-year average for all of Germany, which amounts to 9.1 million hectolitres of must,’ according to trade body Wines of Germany. This was similar to 2003, another hot and dry summer, when yields were around 10 per cent lower than average.

High alcohol

The warm summer also meant the grapes have a high sugar content, meaning the dry wines will have high alcohol levels –  13.5 per cent and above will be common, said Neder.

Still a good vintage?

‘Against all expectations the aroma is quite complex and developing nicely in the first fully fermented wines,’ said Neder.

‘We expect that the wine will need to rest on the yeast for longer than usual in order to harmonise – and it will become clearer during vinification whether 2015 is set to be a great vintage.’

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