Lean wines, full of aroma – this aptly describes the 2021 vintage across Germany’s 13 wine regions.
The best month for German winemakers this year was, to much surprise, sun-drenched September. With plenty of sunshine and cool nights in many regions, September brought a hopeful end to a season reminiscent of times before climate change.
While heat and drought characterized the vintages from 2018 to 2020 and ensured an early harvest, this year’s cool weather slowed down growth, as frequent rain made it extremely challenging for many vintners to keep downy mildew under control.
September then made up for a lot, as its warm weather ripened fruit and ensured that must weights were appealing. High-quality grapes were harvested, satisfying producers and promising good wines with less alcohol than previous years, but no less aroma.
The harvest volume nationwide was an estimated 8,733,000 hectoliters, three percent above the 2020’s figures and only slightly below the ten-year average.
However, there were major differences in harvest volume between individual wine regions.
Ahr, 563 hectares
After the devastating flood of the Ahr on July 15, one thing was certain for the wine producers: they absolutely had to secure the new vintage, which ripened relatively unscathed on steep slopes and terraces in “Germany’s red wine paradise.” The vintage is estimated at 35,000 hectoliters, with Spätburgunder accounting for 85 percent of the yield.
Baden, 15,812 hectares
While considered Germany’s warmest winegrowing region, Baden experienced late frosts and icy winds in the spring, which caused damage of up to 80 percent to young wet buds in some vineyards. Thanks to a beautiful late summer with cool nights, the total amount of must was an estimated 977,000 hectoliters.
Franken, 6163 hectares
Franken’s vintage required an enormous amount of effort during the vegetation period, followed by a forgiving autumn and an ideal September. All grape varieties ripened well, and the long harvest yielded an estimated 480,000 hectoliters of wine, with many wineries also speculating on ice wine.
Hessische Bergstraße, 463 hectares
Germany’s smallest winegrowing region experienced cool, changeable weather in spring and abundant rainfall until August, which initially concerned vintners in the region. However, ripeness progressed in Riesling, Grauburgunder and other varieties for an estimated must harvest of 32,000 hectoliters.
Mittelrhein, 465 hectares
Winegrowers in the Mittelrhein were pleased with the significant increase in yields this year, reaching an estimated 36,000 hectoliters in the cellars. A sunny September, which brought up to 45 percent more sunshine hours than average, contributed to the abundant harvest. Riesling specifically coped well with the region’s cool ripening conditions.
Mosel, 8689 hectares
The Mosel’s prime south-facing vineyards were particularly favored in the significantly cooler and wetter wine year of 2021. While some wineries brought in a very good harvest, others faced total loss due to fungal diseases. Most producers rate the aroma of the grapes very positively and expect predominantly fruity and refreshing wines, which total an estimated 781,000 hectoliters.
Nahe, 4230 hectares
The Nahe was one of the only wine regions lacking abundant rainfall this year, with several winegrowers bringing water to their vineyards in October. The vintage is described as a “late bloomer”, with a warm and dry September allowing grapes to ripen and mildew to subside for an estimated 288,000 hectoliters.
Pfalz, 23,721 hectares
This year’s harvest in the Pfalz was quite varied, with good to very good yields offset by isolated instances of total loss due to downy mildew in Germany’s second-largest winegrowing region. The estimated must volume is 2,230,000 hectoliters, with the winning grape variety of the vintage being Riesling.
Rheingau, 3200 hectares
While wine producers in the Rheingau were initially concerned with downy mildew and high grape acidity, sunny September brought about a turning point. With good quality wines in the cellar, vintners are “all in all” satisfied with the vintage. The region harvested an estimated 220,000 hectoliters of must, and Riesling specifically benefited from the later harvest.
Rheinhessen, 26,943 hectares
Rheinhessen, Germany’s largest winegrowing region, hit a stroke of luck this vintage as budburst happened later than usual and were spared the night frosts in April. About 2,590,000 hectoliters of must were harvested, and the late start to the harvest in mid-September produced a very appealing vintage.
Saale-Unstrut, 819 hectares
Unlike many of Germany’s wine regions, the Saale and Unstrut regions had to hurry through this year’s harvest following abundant rainfall in August and grapes that had burst open. In order to preserve healthy grapes, the harvest was expedited by seven to ten days, producing around 38,000 hectoliters of wine must.
Sachsen, 496 hectares
In Germany’s easternmost wine-growing region, downy and powdery mildew were rampant due to the wet weather, paired with problems with grape rot. Fungus-resistant grape varieties, such as Cabernet Blanc, Souvignier Gris, Johanniter and Solaris, were the only grapes that produced normal to good results. The region produced an estimated 22,000 hectoliters of wine must in total.
Württemberg, 11,424 hectares
The overall damp, cool weather in Württemberg throughout the year allowed for a later harvest, which was particularly beneficial for the white grapes harvested. This vintage was also a year for red varieties, which accounts for two-thirds of the area under vine. The total harvest volume totaled an estimated 1,000,000 hectoliters.
For more details on the 2021 vintage in Germany, read the German Wine Institute’s full press release.