Elixrr Goes to ProWein

Highlights of ProWein 2016

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The crowds were thick with exhibitors and visitors excitedly bustling through the various pavilions.  All told, there were over 6,000 exhibitors from 59 different countries and over 55,000 visitors, half of which coming from outside Germany.  Although, the show was a few weeks ago, it has left a lasting impression–everyone who is anyone in the wine and spirit world was there…and then some!  With several huge halls to wade through, one could walk miles and miles each day trying to get to the many exhibitors and to partake in as many of events as possible.

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A recap of some highlights:

At the largest wine and spirits show in the world, one expects to see the best wine and spirits, but how about glassware?  And are all glasses and containers alike? I learned that the glass used for a particular wine, beer or spirit can have a profound effect on the taste and ultimate appreciation of the beverage for consumers.

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Stops at top glass manufacturers like Zwiesel Kristall, Riedel, Spiegelau to name a few confirmed that great glassware isn’t just about being beautiful, but functional as well.  At Spiegelau, I was treated to a beer tasting using a variety of their beer glasses compared to the standard beer glass and was stunned at how the beer’s taste changed when it was in the correct Spiegelau glass.

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Spiegelau Beer Glasses

Spiegelau beer glasses are made specific to accentuate the flavors and aromas of a variety of beers.  There is a glass for wheat beers, IPAs and another for stout, for example.

The conventional beer glass made the beer taste hoppy and simple with the nose muted to the point that very little of the aroma’s nuances were picked up on the nose.  On the other hand, Spiegelau‘s beer glasses accentuated the flavors of citrus and spice, the aroma was suddenly fragrant and alive with honey spice notes of the wheat beer I tasted.

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A Variety of Spiegelau Beer Glasses

At Riedel, I was able to participate in a Champagne tasting using four different Riedel glasses. As a lover of bubbles, I was shocked to learn that my go-to Champagne glasses, the traditional flute shaped glass that seems so tall and elegant actually mutes the flavor and aroma of Champagne.

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Riedel Champagne Tasting

ProWein and Wales 132ProWein and Wales 132(Pictured Above) The two glasses on the right opened up the flavors and nuances of the Champagne the best.  The larger glass on the right opened up the Champagne the best, but also caused the bubbles to dissipate faster while the glass right of it seemed to make the most out of the champagne without losing its lively sparkle.ProWein and Wales 099

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One of the Featured Wines at Zwiesel

At Zwiesel Kristall, I was able to experience their glasses with wine made by some of Germany’s top women winemakers.  Hosted by Andrea Wirsching of Weingut Hans Wirsching, the glasses were a treat to drink from.  It was fun to mingle with the other ladies of wine, too.

Back in Hall 12, the wonderful spirits of Schladerer were shown to advantage.  Several unique cocktails were on offer for attendees to try.

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Schladerer Mixologist Hard at Work

Schladerer Mixologist Hard at Work

ProWein and Wales 143They all looked great, but I limited myself to trying the Huckleberry Finn and Himbeer Smash.

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Back at Hall 14, I checked out a vodka producer using mostly grapes.  The vodka was very clean, and seemed to take on some of the characteristics of the grapes used.  Especially delicious with dried meat. I admit that it was the packaging that originally caught my attention, but what is in the bottle is equally as good.


Made Mostly with Grapes from the Kaiserstuhl
















Bodega Lustau is always a sight for sore eyes.  The Amontillado was a beautiful amber color with hazelnut and walnut aromas and on the palate almond flavors dominated.  The Palo Cortado was also showing beautifully, some notes of orange marmalade and pecans.  Seeing Bodega Lustau was a reminder of how great premium Sherry can be, not to mention its versatility in pairing with food. Below is an example of food paired with Lustau Sherry at their bodega.

The tasting at Lustau and everything from Fino to the most luscious PX

The tasting at Lustau and everything from Fino to the most luscious PX



Off to Hall 10, I was lucky enough to snag Dirk van der Niepoort for a little tasting.  As always, his ports and wine don’t disappoint.

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The 1997 Colheita exhibited dried dark stone fruit, prunes and black berry and the 20 Year Tawny Port, tawny, dried black fruits and toffee notes of coffee and Niepoort’s 2007 Vintage port was dense purple, tightly wound with firm tannins, red and black fruits this port has a lot of time ahead to develop before it is ready to drink.

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Dirk van der Niepoort Taking some Time out to Taste some of his ports with me.

ProWein and Wales 112ProWein and Wales 112He also tasted me on one of his wines.  He made a Rose that was just stunning and very unique.  Almost full bodied at the same time as bone dry, with rose petal and strawberry finishing on a very minerally note. This is a serious wine, though.  And, I could imagine all the foods that it would pair fantastically with.

Agnes Hasselbach of Gunderloch

Agnes Hasselbach of Gunderloch

Over in the Hall 14, a number of the VDP were represented.  As always, producers like Gunderloch, von Hovel, Zilliken and Rebholz had stellar line-ups.  And, 2015 was another solid vintage.  I especially liked Gunderloch’s Nackenheimer Rothenberg Spaetlese.  It was luscious with minerally, peach, nectarine and lime flavors.

Christoph Edelbauer at his stand at ProWein

Christoph Edelbauer at his stand at ProWein

Over in Hall 17, everything Austrian was on display.  I was able to catch up with winemaker Christoph Edelbauer to try a selection of his portfolio.  The whole range was outstanding, but some wines that stood out was the 2014 Reserve Gruner Veltliner.  The wine had a full mouth-feel with lots of peppery spicy notes, lime and nectarine flavors and bursting with lively acidity.

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Some of Christoph Edelbauer’s Range of Wine

The 20015 Riesling Kamptal was solid and showed lovely minerality and pear with floral notes.  The star of the line-up was the 2014 Chardonnay BA.  Logging in at 120 grams of sugar, 8.1 grams of acidity and harvested at 140 Oechsle, this luscious dessert wine was bursting with apricots, honey and chamomile notes.

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Finally, it was time to head over to the Champagne Lounge.  Represented were all the notables; Pol Roger, Billecart Salmon, Lanson and a bevy of grower Champagne producers.  Brimoncourt and A. Robert had some lovely Champagnes worth looking at.

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The surprise for me, was the overall topnotch quality of the Duval-Leroy line-up.

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The 2002 Brut Nature was everything a zero dosage should be and then some with its purity of fruit expression and precision of fruit and acid balance–it is perfect to drink now.

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Duval-Leroy Sales Manager Alexis Vaernewyck holding the Prized Rose in his hands

The Premier Cru Brut Rose and the 2000 Femme de Champagne 95%Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Noir with 5 or so grams of dosage and 14 years on the lees were truly stunning. But, there wasn’t a dog in this bunch.  Actually, the whole range was outstanding and I left thinking that everyone should be so lucky as to drink Champagne of this quality at least once in a life time.

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14 years on the lees and well worth the wait

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ProWein just keeps getting bigger and bigger each year.  Despite its size, it was well organized and a worthy event for those in the trade looking to make important connections in the industry and to taste the best available.




This Meat Lover’s Afternoon Delight


Consider yourself a carnivore extraordinaire?  Interested in munching on some homemade Charcuterie cured with maple syrup? Like poutine, the Quebecois specialty of fries, gravy and cheese curd, but with the added twist of foie gras?

Not for the faint of heart, or for any of your vegetarian friends, either, Au Pied de Cochon located in the trendy Plateau Mont-Royal is a meat lovers paradise where foie gras is featured imaginatively in almost every dish.

Chef Martin Picard has attracted such a following, especially for his, rich, fatty pork and duck related dishes he lovingly prepares with a French Canadian twist that obtaining reservations at Au Pied de Cochon is no mean feat.  In fact, this unobtrusive brasserie style restaurant is considered one of the best in Montreal and draws tourists from around the world.


Any good meal with family has to begin with a little bubbly and this is where our adventure at Au Pied de Cochon began.   This non-dose grower Champagne started things off right, exhibiting bright, pure citrus, mineral and brioche notes this medium-bodied sparkler was a real palate cleanser.

Being with a big group allows for lots of experimentation and we took advantage of that fact, ordering some of Au Pied de Cochon’s most popular house specialties.


The Foie Gras Poutine

Probably one of the most decadent dishes of my life; fries, brown gravy sauce, cheese curds and a big chunk of foie gras.  What isn’t to like?


House Charcuterie

Here is a simple dish, but the quality of the meats were outstanding.


Cod Fritters

Light and tasty, I don’t think I had a better cod fritter, even in the Basque region of Spain.


Duck in a can after taken out of the can

This dish, duck in a can was over-the-top.  I don’t want to know how many fat grams were here, but let’s just say, this is a heart stopper.  It still won’t deter me from ordering this tribute to everything duck, again, though.


Pig Head for Two

Ok, I thought this was so cool, I had to post another picture of this.  It isn’t every day that you can eat a pig’s head and this one was done to perfection.

There are great desserts on the menu, the rhubarb and strawberry tart and Maple pudding sounded great, among others.  But, we lost steam after gorging on several savory dishes  I guess it’s reason to drop by on my next trip to Montreal.  Bon Appetit!



Elixrr Meets English Fizz Producer Hoffmann and Rathbone

In this video Elixrr visits Hoffmann and Rathbone on one of the last days of the 2015 harvest.


Winemaker Ulrich Hoffmann near some freshly harvested Chardonnay grapes.

After 16 years of working for a variety of topnotch wine producers across continental Europe, the US, and Southern England, Ulrich Hoffman along with wife Birgit Rathbone decided to settle down.  Seeing the potential  in the Southern English Sussex terroir and the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the burgeoning British wine industry proved to be too exciting a prospect to resist.    Five years in, Hoffmann and Rathbone is already garnering international recognition, having recently been awarded a Decanter gold for their Blanc de Blanc.

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Hoffmann and Rathbone’s Decanter Gold Awarded Blanc de Blanc

A boutique producer of just 10,000 bottles, Hoffmann and Rathbone are in the enviable position of having to allocate much of their production.   It’s no doubt due in part to the care winemaker Ulrich Hoffmann takes in sourcing the best grapes from neighboring grape producers and ensuring that their sparklers spend enough time on the lees.


Their current range of fizz has been aged anywhere between 20 and 44 months, similar to top Champagne houses and includes a Rose Reserve (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), a Classic Cuvee  (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and a Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay).

Check out Hoffmann and Rathbone’s website for more about their selection: www.hoffmannandrathbone.co.uk.

More About English Sparkling 

Top English sparkling is reminiscent of top Champagne; the bubbles are fine, the younger versions are pleasantly fruity with bright acidity that offers precision and backbone.   Both sparklers are ageable and food friendly.   And the soil and climate in Kent and Sussex, where most English Sparkling wines are made is similar to that of Champagne, although according to winemaker Ulrich Hoffmann, the acidity in England is a little different and may need longer time ageing in order to balance out.

British wine has been in existence, some believe for millennia going back to Roman times.  The only lull in British winemaking happened  over the period between WW1 and WW2 with commercial production recommencing again around the 1950s.  After some experimentation with different, mostly frost resistant varietals and crossings primarily from Germany,  attention turned to varietals like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with the thought of producing traditionally fermented sparkling wines


English Chardonnay Grapes

Although, many of those German developed varietals are still grown, close to half of all grape production today, according to the Wine Standards Branch, Food Standards Agency is made up of the Champagne varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Pioneers such as Denbies and Nytiember and a bit later Ridgeview have done a lot to put English sparkling on the map, paving the way for the likes of Hoffmann and Rathbone to come on board and make their own quality English fizz.

Over the last sixteen years, English sparklers have won a number  of international competitions and there seems to be no doubt that this trend will continue.   The future looks bright for English sparkling and its successes will only increase as the industry develops and knowledge of the English terroir deepens.


A Vineyard in Sussex with similar soil and climate as in Champagne.

Add Some Fizz to Your Holiday Fun

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The holiday season is again fast upon us and now comes the stress and indecision– what to serve?  Although, there are a vast array of beverage options, for me, nothing  makes a festive occasion pop more than a little fizz in the glass.

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What can be better than sipping on this magical elixir with its perky bubbles that tickle the palate pleasingly?   Not only are well-made versions of fizz  fun to drink,  but most are also very food friendly and can pair with everything from oysters to poultry ending on dessert.  Of course, drinking fizz solo can be magic, too.


The Traditional Way

Some sparklers are  made in the ”Traditional Way” or what used to be referred to as the Méthode Champenoise, the method used to make Champagne.  In Champagne, the effervescence is produced by adding a mixture of yeast, sugar and wine, known as “Liquor de Tirage” to the bottles of dry still wine.  The addition of sugar and yeast causes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, which creates the bubbles.

Other Methods of Bubble Making

The Charmat Method, used notably in Prosecco and Asti production requires putting wine into tanks where it undergoes a secondary fermentation and then is later bottled under pressure.

The Transfer Method similar to the traditional method involves putting a mixture of wine, yeast and sugar (liquor de tirage) into a bottle for its secondary fermentation.  The main difference between the traditional method and the transfer method is that after the wine has gone through its secondary fermentation, it  is then transferred into a larger pressurized tank where the sediment is filtered out and the dosage is added.  This is a cheaper process than the traditional method where each individual bottle needs to be disgorged (the sediment removed) and dosage(sugar+wine) needs to be added.

Other sparklers are made by simply injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) to a still wine, the same process used to make soda

What is Dosage?

The addition of the “Liqueur d’Expédition” is used in sparklers made using the Traditional or Transfer method and is a solution of cane or beet sugar mixed into a small amount of reserve wine.  Liqueur d’Expédition is added to the wine just after disgorging, a process by which the lees are removed.  The amount of sugar in the Liqueur d’Expédition or  grams of sugar per liter added to the wine is referred to as dosage and determines the category of champagne, which is based on sweetness level.

Sweetness Categories

The dosage determines the sweetness level of the resulting Champagne.   Bone dry  “Brut Nature” or “Zero Dosage”  or Non-Dosé” styles, roughly 0-3 grams sugar, to Extra Brut at around 0-6 grams,  Brut (0-15 gram residual sugar), Extra Dry or Extra Sec (12-17 g/l RS), Sec  or Dry, which has perceptible sweetness (17-32 g/l RS)  and at the end of the spectrum to the sweetest Demi-Sec ( 32 to 50 g/liter RS) and Doux styles more than 50 grams/liter Residual Sugar.

Non-Vintage (NV) Versus  Vintage

Most sparklers are a blend of different vintages and are referred to as NV or non-vintage blends.  It is common in Champagne, Cava and other regions where the traditional method  is used to find sparklers made with wine from  a few different vintages or over several vintages used in its blend.  This adds a richness and complexity to the resulting sparkler and masks potentially weak vintages with better one.  The goal of most Champagne houses is to have a style that they replicate through the years and blends over multi-vintages often allows this.

Only the best grapes are chosen for vintage sparklers and usually are sourced only in better or superior vintages depending on the producer.  Vintage wines are usually aged longer than non-vintage wines, too.

Grape Varieties Used

Sparkling wines are made using a variety of grapes.   Typically, Champagne from France is comprised of one or all of the three main grapes grown in the region; Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.  Although,  .3% of Champagne is planted with White Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris and are among the other grapes allowed in the making of Champagne, these varietals aren’t often seen in the large brands most people are familiar with.

Outside of Champagne, one can find fizzes made with all sorts of grape varietals, namely everything from Riesling, Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Glera to red varietals such as Syrah/Shiraz.

The bottom line, sparkling wines come in all flavors and sweetness levels.  There is sure to be one that fits the occasion and palate of any guest.

Below are some Great examples of sparkling wine options for the upcoming holidays:


2011 Cuvee Memoire Brut Nature Blanquette de Limoux, France

It is thought by some historians that the first traditional method sparkling brut wine in the world came from Limoux, and more precisely, was discovered by the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire, long before Champagne was discovered.   Blanquette de Limoux is mostly (about 80% at least) made up of the traditional Mauzac  grape with often a bit of Clairette, Chardonnay and/or Chenin Blanc added to the blend.

This example of Blanquette de Limoux comes from a 4th generation run family estate located by the foothills of the Pyrenees.  Made from organic grapes, this sparkler has zero dosage and a blend of Mauzac and Chardonnay.  The wine spends 8 months on the lees and is aged 24 months on the laths, it is a rich and minerally with some pear notes.

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Montlouis Cremant de Loire NV, France

Made in the traditional way with 100% Chenin Blanc, this cremant has about 7 grams of residual sugar and exhibits lots of apple, honey dew and nectarine flavors.

Paul Berthelot Libertine NV, Champagne, France

There is something fun about Champagnes made with 100% Pinot Meunier, such as this one.  Often fruit forward with red fruit flavors like juicy wild strawberries, this is just a fun wine that is somehow serious all at the same time.  Coming in at around 7 grams of sugar, this is in the middle range of Brut.


Paul Berthelot Libertine NV Brut Zero, Champagne, France

This 5 generation grower Champagne producer  made this Champagne by sourcing Chardonnay grapes from 35 year old vines and then leaving for a minimum of 3 years on the lees;  zero dosage added.   Toasty vanilla, citrus, custard with some mineral notes.

Pure Prosecco

Pure Prosecco NV Veneto Spumante, Italy

Very fruity, floral, mineral peach notes.  Simply yummy.


2009 Armilla MCC Avondale  Paarl, South Africa

Made with 100% Biodynamic/organic Chardonny grapes, 3 years on the lees, this is a bold sparkler with ripe baked apple, quince, toasty vanilla and hazelnut flavors.

Louis Barthelemy Brut Zero Topaze NV Chardonnay, Champagne, France

Made from 20% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 40% Pinot Meunier, this Champagne is a blend of  mostly the 2008/09 vintage.  Grapefruit, lemon with mineral notes.


Cave Jean Bourdy Cremant du Jura NV Trousseau, France

Made with 100% Trousseau grapes this wine exhibits rose petals floral notes along with juicy strawberries and raspberries along with slight oxidative quality, this has spent 4 months on the lees.

Cave Jean Bourdy Cremant du Jura NV, France

Made from 100% Chardonnay this cremant has spent 4 month on the lees.  Displaying some oxidation, this  sparkler has some custard, stone fruit, citrus, salty minerality characteristics.


2010 Hoffmann & Rathbone Blance de Blanc, England

Made from a boutique producer in East Sussex  this Blanc de Blanc is made from 100% Chardonnay.  After 4 years on the lees and 7 grams dosage this is a complex sparkler, with citrus

Elixrr Visits Artadi and the Rioja Region

On my recent trip to the Rioja region in Spain, I was lucky enough to catch the first day of harvest at Artadi.  Artadi is one of the top bodegas in Rioja and uses biodynamic and organic concepts in the vineyards.

On September 11, 2015 they began harvest in their El Cerredillo vineyard by picking Viura grapes.  The weather was beautiful on the day, as you can see above and below.


A vineyard worker happily picking Viura grapes on the first day of harvest.

Below some vineyard pictures at Artadi:


Tempranillo grapes in the Vina El Pisón vineyard.


More Tempranillo in the Vina El Pisón

Below more pictures of the El Cerredillo Vineyards.




Cristina Amutio and Me in the El Cerredillo Vineyard

Now some from the Viña El Pisón vineyard:


The Viña El Pisón Vineyard 


More Viña El Pisón


A fig tree with delicious, ripe figs in the Viña El Pisón vineyard.

To find out more about Rioja and Artadi, check out the video I made of my trip there.



Part 3: Elixrr Goes to the Franken Region and the Hans Wirsching Winery for Harvest 2014

In the last of our series covering Germany, harvest 2014, Elixrr focuses on the Franken region and top producer, Weingut Hans Wirsching.   In part 3, we will be meeting with Andrea Wirsching to examine the vintage, the estate and the region.


Part 2 Harvest 2014: A look at the Mosel and the Wegeler Estate


Bernkastel Doctor Vineyard

It’s the second leg of Elixrr’s trip for Harvest 2014, this time going to the middle Mosel for a visit to the Wegeler Estate and the world famous Doctor Vineyard.


Harvest workers in the Doctor Vineyard

The famous slate soil of the Doctor Vineyard

The famous slate soil of the Doctor Vineyard






A New Treatment for the Vine Disease Esca?

Esca is an incurable vine disease with very little treatment possibilities.   The disease is spreading at an increasingly aggressive pace to the point that some wine grape growers fear  that Esca could develop into a devastation similar to phylloxera, a louse that nearly destroyed Europe’s wine sector in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Due to the work of a professor in France, there may be a treatment that could help battle the disease.  Elixrr went out to an old Riesling vineyard to explore a possible new treatment for Esca with wine grower and importer, Toni Moran.

Part 1 of Germany’s Harvest 2014: A look at the Pfalz, Mosel and the Franken Region

Want to know more about the vintage?  Watch Elixrr’s  3 part-mini documentary series on Germany’s Harvest 2014. Part 1 is featured above.

Grapes in the Pfalz

Grapes in the Pfalz

Elixrr looks at three regions and 4 estates in a documentary series covering the 2014 harvest in Germany.

Covered in the 3-part series are the following estates and regions:

Part 1

Last day of harvest at the Friedrich Becker Winery.

Last day of harvest at the Friedrich Becker Winery

Weingut Friedrich Becker – Pfalz

Vineyard in the Pfalz

Vineyard in the Pfalz

Weingut Rebholz – Pfalz

Part 2

Weingut Wegeler



Wegeler harvest manager, Peter

Wegeler harvest manager, Peter Hettgen-Cues

Part 3

Weingut Wirsching

Hans Wirsching Winery

Hans Wirsching Winery

Adrea Wirsching

Andrea Wirsching

Part 1 is now available (above).

Vintage 2014 in a nutshell:

Warm nights and high humidity, rain, hail in places and the first-time arrival of the Cherry Vinegar fly or Spotted Wing Drosophila across many wine regions in that part of Europe made harvest 2014 a vintage many winemakers will not soon forget.   In fact, when asking some winemakers in Germany about the challenges and what vintage might compare in terms of the harvest the answer was a decisive “none.”

No one anticipated the Asian pest’s arrival, which caught winegrowers flat footed.  The pest that is known all over Asia and now in California, Canada and other areas in Europe primarily goes after red wine grapes when it isn’t attacking berries and cherries.  However, it does go after white wine grapes when there isn’t anything else, so many white wine only grape areas were impacted.

The fly is called the cherry vinegar fly because in addition to attacking cherries and other berries, as mentioned, the part of the fruit it infects takes on a  vinegar-like odor.

There is good news to the vintage, however.  Despite the challenges, the grapes had no trouble reaching physiological ripeness.  With care in the vineyards, there will be some very good wines to choose from this vintage with the caveat that quantities will be considerably down in many regions.   Some estates are reporting that this year will yield a 25-40% less in an average year.

Critical in 2014, was the used of hand-pickers, a practice mostly associated with top estates.  Stick with top producers and there is an abundant choice of premium quality wines from the vintage.

Want to know more about the vintage?  Watch Elixrr’s  3 part-mini documentary series on Germany’s Harvest 2014. Part 1 is featured above.