German Wine Harvest 2001

With the exception of Eiswein optimists, German wine-growers picked the last of their grapes during the first half of November. Particularly the late-ripening varieties, such as Riesling and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), greatly benefited from the mild, sunny weather of a "golden October" a far cry from a year ago, when wet weather posed considerable challenges in the vineyard. This year¹s ripe, healthy grapes were easy to vinify and the first barrel samples show clean, straightforward varietal aromas. Whites have a pronounced fruitiness; reds are deep in color. Weather The past few winters have been relatively mild in Germany, with little or no frost damage to the vines. January through April 2001 was extremely wet. This retarded initial development somewhat, yet created water reserves in the soil that ultimately fostered growth. Bud burst took place between mid April and early May, followed by a period of warmth that promoted rapid growth. Unseasonably cool temperatures in June slightly delayed and/or prolonged the flowering in most regions, yet fruit set was good and coulure was limited. Summer was marked by intervals of hot/humid and hot/dry weather. The latter, combined with timely plant protection measures, helped alleviate problems with pests and fungal diseases. Bunch pruning and/or negative selection prior to the final ripening period were necessary nearly everywhere to control yields. In all, harvest prospects were very good at the end of August. Just days later, however, the weather abruptly turned cool and wet and remained so throughout September, prompting fears of another 2000. Fortunately, October was blessed with mild temperatures and lots of sunshine, which led to the overall positive outcome of vintage 2001. Quality Profitability The advent of the dry varietal wines CLASSIC and SELECTION in 2000/2001 has helped heighten quality-consciousness among growers and producers alike. Growers are restricting yields to achieve the higher starting must weights required for both categories. Traditionally, growers under contract with commercial wineries and members of cooperatives have been paid according to the quantity and ripeness of the grapes delivered. Increasingly, though, the overall condition or health of the crop is factored in and payments are adjusted accordingly with premiums or penalties that will, ultimately, foster quality-oriented vineyard management. Registered, contractual agreements between growers and wineries are expected to increase, not least because they offer wine-growers a viable alternative to the unprofitable bulk wine market. Working with a reliable supply of grapes grown according to quality-oriented specifications, rather than bulk wines of varying quality, enables producers to offer their customers wines of better quality, with a consistent profile. Of the ca. 200 wine estates, cooperatives and commercial wineries that produced and marketed CLASSIC wines during the launch period, 90% of the 111 respondents to a survey conducted this autumn by the German Wine Institute, Mainz, intend to maintain or increase production volume. Institute director Armin Göring estimates that some 15 million liters of CLASSIC vintage 2001 will be produced in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Ahr, Mittelrhein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Nahe, Rheinhessen and Pfalz wine-growing regions) and an additional five to six million liters in Baden and Württemberg, equal to well over two million cases of CLASSIC wine and an overall positive balance.


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