German chancellor Angela Merkel has described the deadly floods that hit parts of Western Europe last week as ‘terrifying’, amid fears that the final death toll could rise.
Germany’s Ahr Valley is among the worst-hit areas. Police said on Monday (19 July) that at least 117 people had died in the Ahrweiler district, according to the New York Times.
Homes and other buildings also suffered extensive damage as fast-moving flood waters surged through towns and villages.
‘It’s a disaster,’ said Marc Adeneuer, of JJ Adeneuer winery in Ahrweiler. ‘There are no bridges over the Ahr river, the streets have been destroyed,’ he said, speaking to Decanter via phone yesterday (20 July).
Mobile network returned on Monday, but electricity and water were still cut off and train lines were also down, he said.
While everyone from his winery is believed to be safe and well, Adeneuer described how a sudden steep rise in the fast-flowing Ahr river caught residents by surprise at around one o’clock in the morning. ‘You had to run for your life,’ he said.
Impact on wineries
Germany’s Wine Institute said it could take weeks to quantify reports of damage to Ahr Valley wineries, which have seen growing international acclaim for excellent Pinot Noir wines in recent years.
Surging flood waters carried away barrels, bottles and even a winery’s press. One barrel that washed up near JJ Adeneuer was from another winery 15km away.
Weingut Sermann, in Altenahr, reported ‘major economic damage’ but also said it was overwhelmed by messages of support.
Local winegrowers have taken a degree of comfort from the arrival of vineyard workers from other wine regions – and people from across Germany in general – to help with the relief effort.
‘The friendship between different wine regions is great to see,’ said Adeneuer, who is head of the local branch of the VDP wine body, or Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter.
‘Many growers from different wine regions are already on-site with forklifts, vineyard tractors or pumps to save what can still be saved,’ said the German Wine Institute.
‘We’ve been pumping water out of the cellar for the last five days,’ said Adeneuer. The team then plans to inspect the wine inside barrels, which they hope may have survived intact.
There are also concerns about the 2021 vintage due to disruption to vineyard work. Adeneuer said people were hoping for the best. ‘First we need electricity and water, then we can start to rebuild everything.’
He added that, while Adeneuer has insurance, it’s thought that not everybody is in the same position.
Call for donations
Wineries and organisations have set up several ways for people to donate to help local winegrowers and communities affected.
Adeneuer has set up an account under the name ‘Ahr – A wine region needs Help for Rebuilding’ for direct donations to aid local winegrowers.
The WineBarn, a specialist German wine importer in the UK, said it would donate 15% of its profits to the VDP charity appeal during the rest of July. ‘The WineBarn would like to express our deepest sympathy for those affected by the severe floods in the Ahr region of Germany,’ it said.
Account details for donations include:
‘Ahr – A wine region needs Help for Rebuilding’
Account: Ahr – A wine region needs Help for Rebuilding e.V.
Bank KSK AHRWEILER
Branch number: MALADE51AHR
IBAN: DE94 5775 1310 0000 3395 07
German Wine Institute donation account details:
‘Beneficary (field 59)
Account: DE14 5519 0000 0619 7860 15
Beneficary: Deutsches Weininstitut GmbH
Beneficary Bank (field 57a)
BIC: GENO DE FF
Bank name: DZ Bank AG, Frankfurt / Germany
Bank-to-Bank-Information (field 72)
acc/ Mainzer Volksbank eG, Mainz / Germany
Purpose: Donation Ahr Flooding
VDP donation account details
Account: Der VDP.Adler hilft e.V.
Bank name: Rheingauer Volksbank
IBAN: DE 21 5109 1500 0000 2045 28
Subject: Solidarity Ahr Viticulture