2019: The second dry year in succession is reflected in a small harvest
Excellent qualities, but only lower yields are the result of the 2019 harvest balance. First taste samples of the still-fermenting musts confirm this: Elegant Riesling, harmonious with strikingly spicy aromas and fine minerality, a happy continuation of the rich and lush 2018 vintage.
Global climate warming brought extreme heat records of up to almost 40°C. in Central Europe in July 2019. In some areas with particularly hot microclimates, the still young berries with sensitive skins have even suffered from sunburn and have dried out. In 2019, the vegetation had again reached a lead of two to three weeks over previous years. Therefore, we had already brought in our small but excellent harvest in September, unusually early and with good weather. In order to obtain a cool grape crop, we started harvesting in the early hours of the morning and also cooled down the presses a little to ensure a cool maceration period.
Important for the quality was again the use of modern, powerful technology to harvest fresh, undamaged grapes in the vineyards and bring them without crushing in free fall to the pneumatic wine presses, where they were gently pressed at low pressure, so that the clear, radiantly clean grape must was stored for fermentation.
The must weights were mainly between 85° and over 110° Öchsle in the Spatlese/ Auslese range. As fermentation progresses, the young wines already present themselves as powerful, spicy with many fruit aromas and emphatic minerality, promising great qualities.
2018: Excellent qualities with rich yields - the driest year in decades
“Excellent qualities with rich yields” is the outstanding result of the 2018 harvest balance. First taste tests of the young wines confirm: Clean, elegant, Riesling, harmonious with spicy aromas and fine minerality, a happy continuation of the brilliant 2017 vintage.
The current global climate warming has determined the dry and unusually warm weather in Central Europe throughout 2018. Since spring, rainfall has almost completely disappeared. Although the vineyard soils had often dried out on the surface, the vines were still able to absorb sufficient moisture from the subsoil, so that the vegetation had a lead of two to three weeks over previous years. Therefore we had started the harvest unusually early in September, but then in the wonderful “Golden October” we brought in high-quality lots from most of the vineyards.
Important for the quality was again the use of modern, powerful technology to harvest fresh, undamaged grapes in the vineyards and bring them without crushing in free fall to the pneumatic wine presses, where they were gently pressed at low pressure, so that the clear, radiantly clean grape must was stored for fermentation. The must weights were mainly between 85° and over 100° Öchsle in the late vintage/selection range. When fermentation is completed, the young wines already present themselves as powerful, spicy with many fruit aromas and emphatic minerality and promise great qualities.
2017: Late frost, heat, rain - a year of surprises
“Unexpectedly good qualities, but significant volume losses” is the result of the 2017 harvest balance. Initial taste tests of the young wines confirm: Clean, elegant, Riesling, harmonious with ripe aromas and fine minerality, a happy continuation of the brilliant 2016 vintage, ideally suited to current market demand.
In 2017, the weather cuisine from the Caribbean again sent extremes with alternating baths across the Atlantic to Europe. After an icy winter, early in April the start of early summer. But then, at the end of April, the young shoots froze to death in the shock of the night frost in many vineyards throughout Europe – and in the good Hochheim sites we got off relatively lightly. The heat in early summer had pushed growth and ripening far forward, but weeks of continuous rain in August raised fears of fungal diseases, until in September – two weeks earlier than normal – a happy “turbo harvest” could be brought in in just under two weeks in beautiful autumn weather. For my winery I can gratefully acknowledge that the tireless efforts of our plant manager Michael Bott and his entire team in plant protection have paid off and that we have been able to harvest consistently healthy and ripe grapes.
The unexpected “autumn miracle” with drought and sunshine finally brought the ripening of the grapes forward by leaps and bounds with must weights mainly in the late harvest range between 85° and 100° Öchsle. After the damaged grapes had been pre-sorted in all vineyards by selective manual harvesting, the vineyards were quickly harvested in the optimal time window using efficient technology. The selective manual harvest was particularly important for the harvest of the “VDP-Großes Gewächse – GG®” (see Grand Cru) and the “VDP-Ersten Lagen®” (see Premier Cru) from the Hochheim top sites DOMDECHANEY, KIRCHENSTÜCK, and HÖLLE classified by the VDP: “In the global competition in the top segment of dry Riesling, we can once again expect elegant, dense and mineral great wines.
Decisive for the quality of the musts was the use of modern technology in the logistics, above all a special grape transporter with suspension and hydraulic lifting mechanism, so that the grapes were brought to the pneumatic press without crushing solely by their own gravity, thus avoiding all disturbing bitter tones: “Tradition meets progress” applies to this current investment in the old family winery.
2016: A lot of rain in spring, then a lot of sun from July onwards - a charming, fruity vintage
“Unexpectedly good qualities with satisfactory quantities” is the result of the 2016 harvest balance, now that the harvest has been safely stored and the must is fermenting in the cellar. First taste tests of the young wines confirm: Clean, elegant, rather light Riesling, harmonious with ripe aromas and clear minerality. After the lush 2015 vintage, the lighter Riesling in the upper middle segment will be ideally suited to current market demand in 2016.
In my long life as a winegrower, with over 70 consciously accompanied vintages, I have never experienced such a roller-coaster of expectations: in the first half of the year, weeks of continuous rain poured unspeakable amounts of water from the sky. Where plant protection was not applied with the greatest sustainability because of bad weather, infections with mildew – peronospora and oidium – destroyed the entire harvest on some farms. In retrospect, I can gratefully acknowledge that the tireless efforts of the whole team have paid off and that we have been able to harvest consistently healthy and ripe grapes.
The finally good harvest of my winery was made possible by the unexpected “autumn miracle” in the second half of the year with many weeks of dryness and sunshine, which brought forward the ripening of the grapes by leaps and bounds with good must weights mostly in the legal late harvest range between 85° and over 90° Öchsle. After the damaged grapes had been pre-sorted in all vineyards by selective manual harvesting, the vineyards were then quickly harvested in October with powerful technology in the optimal time window.
The repeated selective manual harvest was decisive, especially for the harvest of the “VDP-Groß Gewächse – GG®” (see Grand Cru) and the “VDP-Ersten Lagen®” (see Premier Cru) from the VDP – classified Hochheim top sites DOMDECHANEY and KIRCHENSTÜCK, where all damaged grapes were sorted out. The particularly aromatic tips of each grape pearl were pressed and stored separately. It is exciting to see what can be achieved with this differentiation.
2015: The largest and most exotic vintage to date
After a year of unusual weather conditions, I am pleased to present my harvest report for a great 2015 vintage: An excellent vintage with enormous strength and exotic aromas.
All vegetation from flowering to ripening and harvesting was two weeks earlier than normal. After an unusual heat wave and drought from spring to the end of August, real floods of rain finally arrived in September, until the “golden October” brought us wonderful autumn weather for the harvest. The heat brought the grapes to maturity early with increasing must weights, so that by the end of September we had already carefully harvested our Riesling by hand, in order to harvest healthy, fully ripened grapes at the optimal time. Once again a true “turbo autumn” – the earliest in almost 70 years in my own memories.
The result has exceeded all expectations: The fresh Riesling musts ran off the press with clean fruit aromas, the must weights were mostly between 95° and well over 100° Öchsle in the range of Spätlese and Auslese. The stimulating Riesling acidity is optimally rounded and integrated into the mineral extracts. As a highlight my family harvested a Beerenauslese at 140° and even a Trockenbeerenauslese at 175° on a weekend with three generations.
Especially pleasing is the harvest of “VDP.GROSSEN GEWÄCHSE ®” from the two VDP-classified top sites Hochheimer KIRCHENSTÜCK and DOMDECHANEY, the absolute top of the quality pyramid for Riesling in dry style. Thanks to rigorous volume reduction from pruning to pre-harvesting of damaged grapes, the ultimate density and intensity of aromas and minerality, which are influenced by the terroir, is achieved, which cannot be surpassed in any other climate zone in the world – great Riesling on a global scale.
2014: High temperatures until June, then lots of rain. A labour-intensive vintage
In 2014, the entire vegetation from budding and flowering to ripening and the start of harvesting was already two weeks earlier than normal by the end of September. After a heat wave in May/June, July/August to September were marked by repeated floods of rain until the “golden October” brought us a week of wonderful autumn weather for the harvest. The heat brought the grapes to ripen unusually early and the continuous rainfall caused some berries to burst open. In order to avert the dangers of premature botrytis and insect damage, all vineyards had to be harvested by hand with the greatest of speed and care at the end of September, so that healthy, fully ripe grapes could be harvested for the main harvest in October. It was a truly “turbo autumn” – the earliest in almost 70 years of my own memories.
The fresh Riesling musts ran off the press with clean fruit aromas, the must weights were mostly between 85° and 100° Öchsle in the predicate wine range. The stimulating Riesling acidity is optimally rounded and integrated into the mineral extracts. The 2014 vintage promises good qualities again.
2013: Golden October gave us time for a slow harvest
After a particularly difficult year, after patient waiting and a willingness to take risks, we were given a truly “happy end” for the 2013 wine harvest in Hochheim at the end of October: Brilliantly elegant Riesling of high quality, but with a low quantity of only 2/3 of a normal vintage. After the recent significant reduction in stocks due to global demand, the 2013 vintage may be a bit tight for supplying domestic and global export markets.
After a long period of frost, the year 2013 started in April two weeks later than normal. After a brief improvement in the weather in May, the vineyards in Hochheim fortunately began flowering in early June before the next cold spell. After a short hot summer period we experienced a moody autumn, but finally a dry and warm “Golden October”, so that we were able to bring in the harvest happily with patience and care until the beginning of November.
Thanks to careful care of the vineyards, the harvest was healthy until the end of October, so that we could wait for the peak of ripeness. All the vineyards were harvested by hand in advance, selectively, in order to eliminate in advance all the grapes affected by sunburn and botrytis. As a result, we were able to harvest healthy, golden yellow grapes with the wonderful fruit aromas typical of ripe Riesling and wonderfully delicate acidity. The must weights of 85° to over 90° Oechsle met the legal requirements for Spätlese up to even Auslese. This is ideal for fresh, fruity and mineral Riesling wines for regular consumption.
As the highlight of the 2013 vintage, we were even able to harvest small quantities of Domdechaney and Kirchenstück Riesling Beerenauslese with up to 145° Öchsle.
My family and I are grateful for the gracious gift of nature with the harmoniously balanced, clear and fruity Riesling vintage 2013, which will certainly make many friends.
2012: Cold winter, hot May, wet June and then a wonderful autumn. Wines with a fresh acidity balanced by a good fruit
After three vintages with low yields, we were finally able to harvest the perfect desired vintage in Hochheim 2012: The Hochheim Riesling is good in quality and at the same time plentiful in quantity. Following a recent sharp drop in stocks due to global demand, the 2012 vintage will ensure that we can supply both domestic and global export markets until further notice.
The year 2012 began with long frosts and cold April, followed by hot May. Fortunately, the vineyards in Hochheim already bloomed at the beginning of June before the next cold spell. After a capricious summer, we experienced a warm September and above all a wonderful “Golden October”, so that we were able to bring in the harvest happily with patience and care until the beginning of November.
Thanks to careful care of the vineyards, the harvest was healthy until the end of October, so that we could wait for the peak of ripeness. All the vineyards were harvested by hand, selectively, to eliminate in advance all the grapes affected by sunburn and occasional botrytis. As a result we were able to harvest healthy, golden yellow grapes with the wonderful fruit aromas typical of ripe Riesling. The must weights, with 85° to over 90° Öchsle and 8 g/l – 10 g/l acidity, met the legal requirements for Spätlese and even Auslese wines, making them ideal for fresh, fruity and at the same time mineral Riesling wines for regular consumption.
As the highlight of the 2012 vintage, we were even able to harvest a small amount of Domdechaney Riesling Beerenauslese with 145 ° Öchsle.
2011: The magic 11 vintages have fascinated us for centuries
For centuries, the “Elf” has been a magical year for outstanding vintages: the 1811 vintage, known as “Comet Wine” because of the famous comet, had already been praised by Goethe as the “Eilfer”, the 1911 vintage was considered the best of the last century and the 2011 vintage will be followed by the next spectacular “Elfer”.
In the chronicle of my winery since 1780, i.e. for over 230 years, no grape harvest has been recorded before October; I myself, currently in my 80th year, also do not remember any Riesling harvest in September, but mostly in the middle/end of October or even until November after the first snow. But this year 2011 the ripening was so far advanced that we had to start the selective manual harvest already in mid-September, about three weeks earlier than normal. In spring the vegetation had started early. This was followed by wonderfully warm and dry weeks in early summer, but was followed by extreme rainfall in August, but a “happy end” with sunny, dry weeks and cool nights in September. In this climate the grapes ripened at “turbo speed”. Widespread, the berries were attacked by Botrytis – the famous noble rot. It accelerated the evaporation of the liquid and caused the berries to shrink. The natural reduction concentrated sugar, aromas and minerals.
As a result, the 2011 vintage in Hochheim was ambivalent: large volume losses, therefore only about 2/3 of a normal harvest, but on the other hand the quality exceeded all expectations: By far the largest part of the harvest is analytically with 100° Öchsle and above in the late harvest/selection range. Thanks to a very careful selective manual harvesting we were even able to harvest TBA with up to over 200° Oechsle.
Now, towards the end of fermentation, the young wines smell and taste delicate, with an overabundance of bouquets of exotic fruits, at the same time crystal clear with fresh aromas and elegant acidity. The 2011 vintage seems to confirm the centuries-old rule of the magical “Eleven”. This year again shows that our workshop as winegrowers as well as farmers is out in the open and that we are at the mercy of the interplay of nature. Modern technology and human toil can only try to make the best of nature’s gifts. I am confident that we will be able to offer our wine friends a delicious Hochheim Riesling in 2012.
2010: Hard work in the vineyard
2010 – A year of contrasts – in retrospect, this is the result throughout Central Europe. The weather capers swayed from one extreme to the other, the harvest only reached half of normal volumes, but the qualities of the wines from the Riesling grapes from the best vineyards, which ripened late in October, are promising.
Spring came late, it was wet and cold during flowering, but then came record heat in July, followed by record rainfall in August/September, until finally in golden October the dry east winds and the warm, sunny autumn days brought the longed-for “happy end” for the late Riesling… as often happens with the late “Riesling Wunder”.
The great success was due to the efforts of the care work in the vineyard – removal of leaves for aeration of the grape zone, removal of all damaged grapes, selective manual work in the pre-harvest – and above all patience with the harvest until it was fully ripe. Thanks to the dry easterly winds, the grape’s liquid evaporated, bringing unexpectedly high concentrations of sugar, fruit aromas, mineral extracts and delicate acidity.
The result is high must weights, mostly over 90° and even over 100° Öchsle, i.e. Riesling Spätlese and Auslese. As a crowning glory, a Riesling Beerenauslese with 135° could even be obtained in laborious manual work. Such qualities let us expect a special longevity for decades. The liveliness of the 2010 vintage will fascinate.
Addendum from 2018: The 2010 vintage was quickly torn apart in the press. But for us it is a great vintage. The good acid structure gives the wines an excellent ageing potential. Especially the noble sweet wines convince with their elegant acid-fruit play.
2009: Sometimes less is more
After a truly “Golden October”, I can now send you my pleasing harvest report for the 2009 vintage from my Hochheim vineyards: Once again a blessed vintage, excellent in quality but a little less in quantity, cause for great gratitude.
The weather in 2009 was favourable for growth and ripening: in the warm spring the vegetation exploded, early blossoming followed by abundant rainfall, then a warm summer and finally in October dry east winds and cool nights, ideal for the health of the grapes and development of the typical Riesling aromas.
Most of the vineyards have been carefully hand-picked in order to extract the early noble rotten berries for a Riesling BEERENAUSlESE: This rarity with over 140° is now slowly fermenting in the cellar. The result of the main harvest was impressive: All Riesling musts were over 90°, towards the end even over 100° must weight, in addition to a small amount of Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) musts also at 100°.
After the slow, cool fermentation, the young Riesling is already tasting its brilliant elegance and radiant fruit, with intense minerality and ripe, harmonious acidity. The harvest assortment covers the full range from the popular Riesling CLASSIC to KABINETT and SPÄTLESE to the noble-sweet AUSLESE and, as the absolute top for dry Riesling FIRST WITHS. The Riesling 2009 lets expect a high ageing potential again.
2008: Harvest until November
On 7 November we harvested the last Riesling grapes. A blessed vintage 2008 with good quality Riesling and Pinot Noir and at the same time good quantity. I am grateful.
In 2008 the weather was again capricious: late budding, early blossoming, after summer heat in August early ripening, then record rain in September with sudden berry growth, but finally sunshine in October with a dry east wind. Once again, the decisive factor for the quality was the careful, selective pre-harvesting with elimination of all damaged grapes, so that the harvest of healthy grapes could be delayed until late October. Almost all must weights were in the late harvest range, from 85° to 90° Oechsle, and finally also for Auslese and Riesling “Erster Gewächsen” also over 100° with one of the rare Riesling Beerenauslese of over 130°.
2007: Warm days and cool nights provide for a beautiful aroma
A blessed Riesling harvest 2007 was granted us: Fortunately the quantity is abundant, the quality excellent. We have reason to be grateful for the rule of nature.
In the 2007 wine year we also experienced capricious weather: A record warmth in April with extremely early blossoming, then a wet May, in July a short heat wave with sunburn on the young berries, and finally a beautiful autumn for ripening and harvesting until the end of October. Thanks to careful and selective pre-harvesting, the harvest was clean and healthy, so that the wines are once again wonderfully clean. The must weights ranged mainly between 90° and 100° with balanced acidity. The young wines in the cellar already show a lot of elegance and fine fruitiness.
With the 2007 vintage, the broad spectrum from Riesling “Classic”, Kabinett and Spätlese to fantastic Auslese, great “Erstes Gewächs” and even a Beerenauslese, is again available in modern dry as well as traditional sweet taste. The small Spätburgunder harvest promises a strong and velvety red wine.
2006: Turbo harvest in the newly acquired Zehntscheune
– July brought with 24,6°C the highest average temperature since 1884
– In August we experienced floods of rain of over 100 mm with ugly cold
– In September it was again warm and humid with heavy rainfall
As a result of these unusual capricious weather conditions, the Riesling was already ripe by the end of September and at the beginning of October the crumbly berry skins showed the first signs of rot. Therefore, we had to remove the damaged grapes by hand in all vineyards immediately in order to achieve healthy grapes. Fortunately, the second decade of October was wonderfully warm and dry, so that we could harvest the overripe grapes in a hurry. The result is ambivalent:
– Great quality: Spätlese and Auslese with over 90°, sometimes over 100° Öchsle
– Volume extremely low: significant volume losses for the second year in a row
– Quality pyramid upside down: Wonderful Spätlese and Auslese, but lack of Classic and Kabinett
– The acquisition of the historic Zehntscheune gave the winery the opportunity for the first time to work quickly and with concentration, with plenty of covered space. An absolute must for this vintage! The barn offers the necessary height to bring the grapes from the tipping boxes undamaged in their entirety to the press.
Although the harvest was smaller than normal, the quality was better. All Riesling musts were over 90° in must weight and in some cases well over 100° with ripe acidity. Most of the vineyards were harvested three times by hand, so that we were able to store pure, fine-fruity musts. About 90% of the harvest meets the requirements for Spätlese – even if some are called Kabinett after bottling – just under 10% of the Riesling musts are high-quality Auslese or meet the requirements for “First Crops”, and to top it all off we were even able to harvest a very fine Beerenauslese.
In addition to Riesling – the absolute speciality for white wine with “100 % pure” – wonderful Burgundy red wines have also been grown, which however have to mature in wooden barrels for one year longer.
2003: Trockenbeerenauslese with 252 Öchsle crown this vintage
s a winemaker at the age of 71, I have to go back 50 years in my memory to the fabulous 1953 vintage to remember such a glorious Riesling vintage as 2003 – this is my résumé for the 2003 vintage, which was happily brought in last week. The must weight of the entire vintage has clearly exceeded the legal limit for late vintage, a large proportion is in the selection range; nevertheless, I will of course offer some late vintages as a cabinet. The grapes were consistently healthy and the musts show ripe fruit aromas. However, the quantity only reached about 80% of the long-term average.
The absolute highlight of my Riesling harvest are two Beeren- and Trockenbeerenauslese from the top sites Kirchenstück and Domdechaney with up to 252° Oechsle, a unique record in the long history of my old family vineyard. In bright sunshine on warm days, with cool nights and a dry east wind, the noble rotten berries shriveled and dried up like sultanas. After three weeks of laborious manual harvesting – berry by berry – a golden-coloured essence of sugar, acidity and aromatic extracts finally dripped from the wine press. Such wines have a life expectancy of more than 100 years and may be sold by the children of my grandchildren.
2002: Finally a vintage of ice wine again
Our winery has produced a blessed vintage 2002, excellent qualities with good quantity The Riesling is mostly in the upper Spätlese area, supplemented by beautiful Auslese wines and a candidate for the “first crop” as well as a minimal amount of TBA. I have also been able to harvest wonderful Spätburgunder red wines.
The grapes were healthy until November. Thanks to late harvesting and longer ripening time, an increased aroma formation with natural acid reduction in the grapes was achieved. After several selective harvests, we harvested clean musts with wonderful aromas. After gentle pressing and cool fermentation, the young wines now remain on the lees to further increase their intensity and density. Already today the young wines present themselves harmoniously.
As the crowning glory of a good vintage, we were able to harvest a speciality on 11 December in the darkness of the early morning between 6 and 9 o’clock under a clear starry sky and at temperatures below 9 degrees below zero:
2002 Hochheimer Kirchenstück Riesling EISWEIN
With this we can celebrate the 222nd anniversary of our family on the estate in Hochheim in a dignified manner.
The berries were hard frozen and were pressed immediately after selective hand harvesting. The juice was like syrup and dripped from the press with a must weight of 180 degrees Oechsle, the must weight of a good TBA.
The secret of good Eiswein is that the water content of the grapes freezes at a minimum of minus 7 degrees Celsius, while the other components such as fructose, aromas and acidity do not freeze. A large part of the water content remains in the press as ice, which causes a highly concentrated must, almost syrupy in consistency, to drip from the press. The result of this natural concentration is an essence of elegant, noble sweetness with intense fruit aromas and at the same time a pronounced and fresh acidity. Such ice wines from the classic Riesling grape are famous for their longevity of 50 or even 100 years: a newly married couple can save such a wine for the Golden Wedding!
2001: Harvest begins in the second half of October - time for the delicate Riesling aromas to develop
“The Riesling – the world’s latest ripening grape variety – is the great winner in the golden October 2001. We are more than happy about the gift of the wonderful October weeks, which brought us unexpectedly good qualities. The 2001 is a typical Riesling – vintage” – this is our joint verdict from Michael Bott, my technical manager, and from me after the first joint tasting of the 2001 young wines at the beginning of December 2001.
The good quality of the 20001 vintage is the result of early blossoming, sufficient rainfall in summer, and finally dry, warm weeks in the decisive ripening period in October, when the fine fruit aromas are developed in the grapes during warm days and cool nights. The leaves on the vines were dark green and healthy until the end of October, so that many more minerals were extracted from the soil and the natural fruit acidity was rounded off by assimilation, thus achieving a maximum of natural harmony. Patiently waiting until the second half of October, careful harvesting, gentle pressing, careful clarification of the fresh must and cool fermentation resulted in clean, spicy and elegant young wines.
The harvest statistics show a perfect structure: according to the legal requirements, just under 1/3 Kabinett wines, 2/3 Spätlese and small quantities of Auslese or “Erstes Gewächs” and even Beerenauslese… In fact, however, some Spätlese are bottled as particularly high-quality Kabinett wines in order to meet the high expectations of the market. However, harvest volumes have been rather modest as a result of the quality improvement.
We were particularly pleased with our small but fine red wine and white autumn harvest of our classic Burgundy, which continues the old tradition from the middle of the 19th century, when according to records in the Gutschronik, about 1/3 of the area was planted with red varieties. In the ageing process, we place special emphasis on the pure, typical fruit aromas of the Pinot – not, in line with the worldwide fashion trend, overlaid with young oak wood.