The 2015 vintage and its cellar concert: a great vintage in the making
Nothing is more satisfying for a winemaker than to know that another harvest is done:2015 is concluded. While the best wines of the vintage –precise, full-fruited and showing great structure– are still fermenting away in our cellars, we look back on the rather unusual growing season of 2015 which promises to become a great vintage.February 2016 – Last year in mid-September we leapt into action: the grapes were ripe and the harvest could begin. The grapes were gently pressed at our two facilities, the Scharzhof in Wilt-ingen and the Duisburger Hof in Eitelsbach, in the Saar and Ruwer valleys respectively. By Oc-tober 26, 2015 all our Riesling musts, down to the last drop, were safely stowed in our Trier cellars. They are fermenting right now in our historic cellars right underneath Trier’s town cen-tre. As every year, the wines present us with a special aural experience: as the fermentation-generated carbon dioxide gases escape through the fermentation airlocks on top of all our large Fuder barrels, they create a wonderful if unusual concert, echoing though our cellars and lasting well into the spring months of the following year. As every year this makes for a rather cheerful ambience in our dark, old vaulted cellars, not only for staff but all our visitors.
A turbulent growing season makes us fear the worst
A mild spring gave our vines a rather early start in 2015 with a remarkably intense growth spurt. After a long, hot and dry summer we were thrilled when rain arrived in September: at long last dry stress subsided and ripening could proceed in a more laid-back fashion. Continuing rain, however, soon reminded us of the growing seasons of 2000, 2006, 2010 and 2014 – each and every one of them proved to be a downright fateful vintage for every grower along Mosel, Saar and Ruwer. Due to the wet weather and warm September temperatures, Botrytis cinerea cv., so-called noble rot, was able to spread rather early during the ripening process. At such an early stage of ripening botrytis-infection can be detrimental to the development of the grapes: it can dramatically reduce the quantity of grapes harvested and has huge influence on quality. Once the moist and warm weather subsided we could finally relax: our vineyards had weathered these chal-lenges beautifully and presented us with grapes of perfect health and ripeness.
We started our harvest on 17 September with ripe Pinot Noir Précoce and Elbling grapes in the Ruwer Valley and continued with the harvest of Sankt Laurent and Pinot Blanc – staggered into different stages according to wine styles and quality levels – until the second half of October in the Saar valley, as well as harvesting all our new Riesling plantings in all three river valleys.
We started with our Pinot Noir harvest on October 7: the Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Kan-zemer Altenberg were fully ripe, completely healthy and reached a must weight of around 100 °Oe. Picking our Riesling in the Scharzhofberg on 24 October 2015 concluded the harvest.
Throughout the main Riesling harvest from early October onwards we were blessed with dry, windy but sunny autumn weather which continued almost without exception until we finished picking. Cool nights as well as easterly winds which helps to dry the grape bunches quickly stemmed the spread of noble rot. These climatic conditions were perfect for our Riesling and the grapes were healthy throughout with only a very small percentage of raisining. This way, the grapes could ripen gradually and continuously which resulted in a very harmonious balance be-tween aromas, sugar content, minerals and other enhancing grape compounds. A deliberately stringent selection and several harvest passes within the same vineyard enabled us to pick fully ripe and healthy grapes for our dry and off-dry wines. At the same time, we were able to select perfect, botrytised grapes for our premium sweet wines. Qualitatively speaking we can thus look back on a well-paced, relaxed harvest in 2015 – something that had eluded us for a number of years.
Quality instead of Quantity
Compared to previous years the 2015 harvest with average yields of 53hl/ha is clearly below our long-term annual average of 65hl/ha. However, the quality of grapes, musts and wines is all the better for it. Our clients can also look forward to excellent Sekt from the 2015 vintage, to very attractive Qualitätsweine, to the Prädikatsweine at Kabinett and Spätlese level we ourselves hold in such high esteem, as well as to a whole range of excellent, nobly sweet Auslesen.
Having regularly tasted all of the wines in barrel and tank, our oenologist Johannes Becker deems them very promising: “Due to the positive growing season the 2015 vintage promises great things. Very distinct fruit and structure, typicity and finesse are already very evident. I am certain that the wines will be of excellent quality. Anyone who might encounter our 2015 wines in the future can already look forward to tasting them!”