The 2015 vintage will be remembered for its dry, hot summer growing season. It will also be revered for the stellar quality fruit harvested by the VDP estates, even if overall yields were distinctly lower than in years past. Extensive manual selection, world-class vineyards and well-timed interventions paid major dividends this year, leading to frequent comparisons to the legendary 1959 and 1971 vintages.
"The 2015 grape harvest was unusual in two ways. Not that the trend is completely unexpected, but never before have we had a harvest kick off so early and be so brief. It's definitely a change from the classic romantic vision of a wine harvest. But the bottom line is this: all's well that ends well," says Steffen Christmann, President of the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP).
Growing Season and Harvest
A dry spring and a warm, dry growing season set the tone for a dry summer and record heat. In many places the lack of precipitation during the first six months did little to disturb the vines. The plants acclimated themselves quickly to the warm temperatures and pulled on reserves from the copious rain of the previous winter. The dry conditions nevertheless posed a number of other challenges for the VDP winegrowers. Younger vines in particular required a variety of extra measures, including mulching, moderate defoliation and crop thinning to preserve what little water the soil contained and minimize the risk to the harvest.
Early September brought real rainfall, easing drought-related concerns significantly. While the vines had become accustomed to less precipitation, they happily accepted the extra water when it arrived. On the other hand, now the winegrowers had to contend with the threat of bursting berries. As the harvest date approached in mid-September, a fortuitous high pressure system settled in with picture-perfect dry and pleasant weather — and a collective sigh of relief.
Cool nights and continued warm days encouraged the grapes to develop their full varietal spectrum of characteristic aromas. The conditions were thus perfect for harvesting flawless, fully ripe fruit. The late-ripening Pinot varieties in particular, as well as Riesling and Silvaner, handled the year's severe dryness masterfully.
The only downside was the lower yields reported in many regions. Baden for example registered a 10% drop over the year prior. Yet the exquisite quality of the harvest more than made up for those losses.
-Information supplied by Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP)