It was the best of vintages, it was the worst of vintages…or, so might many winemakers in Germany might say when considering the recently released 2010 vintage. To say that 2010 was challenging would be an understatement to most when considering the challenging weather experienced by wine regions across Germany. To begin with, during the flowering period a cold snap hit vineyards. The cold affected fruit set and ultimately reduced yields fairly significantly. The weather continued to be unpredictable, cool and rainy, so that by August it was necessary to further reduce yields by selecting out grapes that had been infected with rot. In various regions, hail further decimated crop levels. The cool weather continued into September, and contributed to the slow ripening of the grapes, which allowed the acidity to remain very high.
Just when all seemed lost, a very sunny October saved the day for the producers patient and brave enough to put off. The grapes were able to ripen enough to reach physiological ripeness, while still maintaining the very high acidity levels carried over from the cool August and September months. What resulted was an anomaly, a very unique vintage that most winemakers weren’t able to completely compare to prior vintages. In most “normal” vintages high acidity as seen in 2010 would correlate to a poor or unripe vintage, while the extraordinarily high ripeness levels would indicate a very good or even great vintage. 2010 provided an abundance of both acidity and sugar free extracts/ripe fruit concentration.
As a result, 2010 yielded some fabulously unique and outstanding wines. Producers who followed strict selection processes in the vineyards and figured out how best to handle the über-high acidity levels were rewarded for their efforts; producing wines of incredible concentration that seemed sleek and filigreed on the palate. For estates that made missteps in the cellar and/or vineyard, the end results were at best forgettable or at worst awkward and disjointed; dominated by harsh acidity. What was universal, or nearly so, was the use of deacidification techniques, employed to some extent or other at most estates.
For the best producers of 2010, the vintage might potentially be considered very good to excellent, depending on how the top wines develop. The vintage seemed to show particularly well in the Nahe and Mosel, where some producers have declared the vintage. According to the German Wine Bureau, 2010 produced the lowest yield in 25 years, with yields off anywhere from 40-60% from the prior vintage. So, for the best of the vintage consumers will have to make their purchases sooner rather than later. For producers who had an off year, the low yields will be viewed as an opportunity to put this vintage behind them sooner rather than later! It is still too soon to say how ageable these wines will prove to be, especially considering that many of the wines were deacidified. What is known, is that the cream of the vintage will be very exciting for those lucky enough to get their hands on some of the best juice.
Some Favorite Estates of the Vintage: Bernhard Huber, Seeger, Graf von Schönborn (both Franken and Rheingau), Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken, von Hövel, Clemens Busch, Fritz Haag, Reinhold Haart, Schäfer-Fröhlich, Friedrich Becker, Josef Leitz, Künstler, Josef Leitz, Gunderloch and Robert Weil.
Interviews with individual winemakers to follow!!