Vintage 2008: A Look at Germany's 13 Wine-growing Regions

German wine-growers are more than satisfied with the size and quality of this year’s grape crop. Relatively cool autumn weather enabled grapes to ripen gradually and remain healthy. In all, quality ranges from good to very good, and even top qualities with more than 200 degrees Oechsle have been recorded. Crisp, lean white wines with a fresh, fruity acidity are typical for vintage 2008. The overall harvest is estimated at 10 to 10.5 million hectoliters. The German Wine Institute/Mainz has compiled a summary for each of Germany’s 13 wine-growing regions.

Ahr

Wine-growers in the Ahr Valley harvested their grapes for nearly six weeks, starting in mid-September with Frühburgunder, an early-ripening mutation of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), followed by Spätburgunder, and ending with Riesling. The healthy condition of the grapes enabled growers to harvest for such a long period. Patience paid off with a respectable average must weight of 85 degrees Oechsle. In some cases, red grapes reached more than 100 degrees. The crop yielded 85 hl/ha, with lower yields for white varietals and considerably higher yields for the red Pinots and Portugieser. The overall size of the harvest is not quite 50,000 hl, or some ten percent less than last year. In terms of quality, Ahr growers are comparing vintage 2008 with 2007. Clean musts lie in the cellars, and the reds are showing good color. Due to this year’s weather, acidity levels are higher than last year.

Baden

The harvest in Baden began with the Müller-Thurgau grape in mid-September, the main harvest about a week later. Thanks to cool nights and warm, sunny days with little rainfall, the harvest could proceed at an unhurried pace. It was not until early October that the harvest of Burgunder (Pinot) grapes began. Because the grapes were exceptionally healthy, growers were able to wait for the optimal moment of ripeness before picking. Harvesting continued well into the second half of the month, sufficient time for  Spätburgunder grapes to take on a very deep color. Growers are pleased with the excellent quality of both white and red wines. Must weights for Spätburgunder, for example, were seldom below 90 degrees Oechsle. Gewürztraminer even reached Trockenbeerenauslese ripeness. The young wines are lively, with a pronounced fruitiness and a “playful” acidity. With average yields of not quite 90 hl/ha, the overall yield in Baden will be less than 1.4 million hl.

Franken

Lively, crisp and fresh; underpinned by a stable acidity; striking aromas – vintage 2008 in Franken. The wines are rich in flavor, but don’t have quite as much alcohol as in years past. They show good aging potential. In particular, consumers can look forward to terrific Silvaner wines. The grape crop in Franken is estimated to have yielded 445,000 ha, or some 80,000 hl less that last year. Yields are about 75 hl/ha, and must weights averaged 86 degrees Oechsle. Two thirds of the crop qualify for Prädikat status. The 2008 harvest in Franken will go down in history as one of the longest ever. Early varieties were already being harvested in mid-September. Thereafter, the weather was often variable – sometimes beautiful harvest weather, sometimes rain – nervewracking for growers. In the end: particularly the late-ripening varieties, such as Riesling and Silvaner, were clearly the winners.

Hessische Bergstrasse

Although a small number of wineries in the Hessische Bergstrasse still have a few grapes hanging on the vine in hope of being able to produce lusciously sweet wines, the main harvest began in mid-September and ended on 25 October with very good results: high must weights, good yields, and a ripe acidity are the hallmarks of vintage 2008 in this very small region with only 440 ha/ca. 1,100 acres of vines. Among the important varietals, such as Riesling and Spätburgunder, yields averaged 80 hl/ha. Riesling reached 85 degrees Oechsle and above. In terms of quantity and quality, the white wine harvest is similar to vintage 2004. With average must weights of 95 degrees Oechsle, growers expect powerful Spätburgunder wines, comparable with those of 2005. Overall, this year’s crop of roughly 35,000 hl is slightly larger than that of  2007.

Mittelrhein

The Riesling harvest in the Mittelrhein began in October. There was no need to rush, since grapes in the steep sites were healthy and water supplies were sufficient. The late start enabled the region’s principle variety, Riesling, to profit from a long growing season and ample time for fine aromas to develop. Approximately half of the crop qualified for Prädikat status, an indicator of this year’s good quality. With yields of ca. 100 hl/ha and an overeall anticipated quantity of 40,000 hl, this year’s harvest was the best in nearly a decade.

Mosel

Preliminary reports from growers in the Mosel region sum up the 2008 harvest as being of good quality and quantity. Even at the end of October the harvest had not completely ended in the steep sites in the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer valleys. Riesling, in particular, took advantage of the long ripening period to develop fruit aromas and extracts. As such, wine enthusiasts can once again look forward to elegant, juicy wines that are rich in fruit and minerals. In comparing vintage 2008 with years past, it’s being said that it is very good, albeit it not quite as exceptional as 2007. Due to variable autumn weather, growers had to resort to selective harvesting again. Early-ripening varieties could be picked as early as mid-September, but is wasn’t until mid-October that the main Riesling harvest began – with remarkable average must weights of 80 degrees Oechsle, while selectively harvested grapes registered 90 degrees and above. Müller-Thurgau and Elbling achieved average must weights of 70 and 65 degrees Oechsle, respectively. Grapes of the Burgunder (Pinot) family reached particularly high must weights (90 degrees and higher). In all, the size of the crop is estimated at 930,000 hl maximum, or 20,000 hl fewer than in 2007.

Nahe

Growers in the Nahe region are talking about a “vintage made to order,” since both quantity and quality are satisfactory. The harvest was underway by 20 September, and in the upper Nahe (western portion of the region), will not be completed before early November. Cool weather in September prompted growers to “wait and see” rather than harvest too early. As such, little by little must weights continued to rise to respectable, above-average levels: for Müller-Thurgau, Portugieser and/or Dornfelder ca. 75 degrees Oechsle; Weiss- or Grauburgunder (Pinot Blanc or Gris), usually more than 90 degrees. Red varietals planted in vineyards with restricted yields also achieved comparable must weights. As such, the “vintage made to order” supplies sufficient quantities of QbA and Prädikat wines (up to Spätlese and Auslese) to restock many a depleted cellar. With regard to higher qualities, i.e. lusciously sweet wines, this vintage cannot match that of 2007. Comparisons with vintage 1998 are being made. Often, good results in 2008 required a selective preharvest. In addition to high must weights this year, the young Nahe wines are showing a refreshing acidity. Yields of more than 100 hl/ha will probably result in an overall crop size of ca. 450,000 hl.

Pfalz

Heavy rainfall in mid-September reminded many Pfalz growers of the harvest in 2006. As such, the harvest quickly began. Cool temperatures during the nights thereafter, though, considerably alleviated fears of a repeat of the 2006 scenario just as quickly, and the rest of the harvest calmly proceeded into the second half of October. Prior to harvesting, growers took advantage of the extra time to remove bunches affected with botrytis. The delay also helped reduce acidity levels in the grapes. The young wines of the new vintage are on the lean side, but have good structure and stimulating acidity, show typical varietal fruit, and promise to be enjoyable to drink. The red wines are surprisingly deep in color, and have promising, firm tannins. Throughout the region there were also batches harvested with excellent must weights above 95 degrees Oechsle, but often quantities were lower than desired. Even grapes of Beeren- and Trockenbeerenauslese ripeness, such as a Rieslaner with 240 degrees Oechsle, could be harvested here and there, albeit with great effort. A higher proportion of Prädikat wines could be harvested in 2007; nevertheless, more than a third of this year’s crop qualifies for Prädikat status. Riesling and the white Pinots Grauburgunder and Weissburgunder achieved very good must weights (on average, between 85 and 95 degrees Oechsle), as did Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), with a remarkable average must weight of 95 degrees Oechsle. Once again the overeall size of the crop was slightly above the long-term average and is estimated at 2.4 million hl. Growers are calling it a “vintage made to order” – there is lively demand for the good quality and sufficient quantity of vintage 2008.

Rheingau

After cool weather in September, Rheingau growers decided to wait until October before beginning with the harvest of Riesling and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), the region’s two most important grape varieties. It was not until the second week of October that the Riesling harvest reached its peak. For the most part, must weights reached 80 to 85 degrees Oechsle. As such, the 2008 vintage will be known particularly for high-quality Kabinett wines. Growers are satisfied with the size of the crop, which is ca. ten percent higher than the long-term average of 250,000 hl.

Rheinhessen

Germany’s largest wine-growing region, Rheinhessen, anticipates a relatively large harvest in 2008. Estimates lie between 2.9 to 3.0 million hl. Mother Nature bestowed no gifts upon wine-growers in 2008, but many opportunities that growers took advantage of. By mid-September, particularly in the southern portion of the region, many estates began with a selective harvest, whereby only healthy bunches were left on the vine to continue ripening. The harvest essentially ended during the last week of October with better qualities than had been anticipated a month before. Rieslings in good sites adjacent to the Rhine, for example, achieved must weights of 90 degrees Oechsle; Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), 80 degrees; and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), 90 degrees. Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) also performed well in terms of quality. Silvaner, a varietal typical of Rheinhessen, responded well to growers’ quality-oriented measures – a broad range of ripeness levels were harvested, including grapes suitable for the region’s prestigious, top-quality “Selection Rheinhessen” wines. It’s worth mentioning that this vintage yielded considerably fewer lusciously sweet wines than in the past. In terms of quality, comparisons with vintage 2004 are being made; in terms of quantity, the size of the crop is similar to that of 1999.

Saale-Unstrut

Growers in the Saale-Unstrut region harvested some 50,000 hl of grape juice this year, or 2,000 hl more than in 2007. The harvest began in mid-September and ended in late October. Late-ripening varietals, in particular, were harvested up to 14 days later than usual, which resulted in higher must weights. Individual growers even report very good results, with must weights of 95 degrees Oechsle for Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) or Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier). This year, late-ripening varieties were clearly the winners. The wines are appealing with their pure, distinctive fruitiness – comparable with last year’s vintage in terms of quality. Many Saale-Unstrut growers have left a few grapes on the vine in hope of a possible Eiswein harvest. Last year, the frosty temperatures necessary for this specialty were not in the cards.

Sachsen

Despite a timely bud burst and early blossoming, the grape harvest in Sachsen did not begin earlier than normal. Cool weather in early September delayed the start until the middle of the month. One month later, with the harvest of Riesling and Gewürztraminer, the main harvest in 2008 was completed. Yields were only about 55 hl/ha, and thus, the total size of the crop is a mere 23,500 hl – comparable with the results of last year’s harvest. Must weights were the same or slightly above longstanding values and overall, Sachsen’s 2008 vintage is of good average quality. Two-thirds of the crop yielded QbA wines; one-third, Prädikat wines. The new wines are expected to be fairly light and fruity.

Württemberg

Vintage 2008 was very good in Württemberg. Must weights were remarkable. Thanks to warm, sunny days alternating with cool nights during the ripening period, all varieties have well-developed, ripe aromas. As such, consumers can look forward to wines with a pronounced varietal character. The harvest of the early-ripening varietals Acolon (a crossing of Lemberger and Dornfelder), Müller-Thurgau and Dornfelder began in mid-September. The entire harvest of late-ripening varieties, such as Trollinger, Lemberger and Riesling, took place in October. Weather conditions were stable and late autumn days sunny, thereby enabling growers to wait for aromas to fully develop and harvest at the optimal moment. Must weights of the most important varieties were mostly 75 to 85 degrees Oechsle, or solid Kabinett and Spätlese wines. This year’s crop yielded about ten percent less than in 2007. Yields were approximately 100 hl/ha, so that the total quantity harvested is around 1.15 million hl – nearly 90 million liters of which were harvested by Württemberg’s “Weingärtnergenossenschaften,” or cooperative wineries. Red grape varieties accounted for nearly three-fourths of the harvest.

Grape Must Harvest in Germany in 2008: Preliminary Estimates
As of 30 October 2008

wine-growing regionestimated yields in hlchange in % from 2007
Ahr41,000-10
Baden1,400,000+5
Franken445,000-18
Hessische Bergstrasse36,000+1
Mittelrhein40,000+12
Mosel930,000-2
Nahe450,000+13
Pfalz2,400,000-5
Rheingau250,000-4
Rheinhessen2,900,000 – 3,000,000+2
Saale-Unstrut50,000+1
Sachsen23,500-8
Württemberg1,150,000-11
totalca.10 – 10.5 million hl+\- 2

Deutsches Weininstitut, Pressestelle
Gutenbergplatz 3-5, 55116 Mainz
Ernst Büscher, Tel. 06131/2829-29
Sigrid Börsig, Tel. 06131/2829-21
Christiane Leonhardt, Tel. 06131/2829-37
Fax: 06131/282920
E-Mail: eb@deutscheweine.de
www.deutscheweine.de

German Wine Institute
Press Department
Gutenbergplatz 3 – 5, 55116 Mainz
Ernst Büscher, Phone: 06131- 2829-29
Fax: 06131- 2829-20
E-Mail: ernst.buescher@deutscheweine.de 
www.germanwines.de