First grapes harvested in Germany – record breaking 100° Oe


On August 10th, this year's harvest for partly fermented new wine - locally known as Federweisser - commenced in the Pfalz region (Palatinate). At this comparatively early harvest time, the healthy grapes of the early-ripening variety ‚Solaris‘ reached ripeness with over 100 degrees Oechsle.

Vegetation ahead of average records

As reported by the German Wine Institute, the vines are currently about a week ahead of the previous year in terms of their maturity. Depending on the region, the start of the main vintage is expected as early as late August to early September. Late ripening varieties such as Riesling will probably not be ready for harvesting until mid to late September – depending on the individual growing areas.

This year the vines started growing very early. After a warm and sunny spring, they sprouted almost two weeks earlier than the long-term average. In the Rheingau region there was even talk of the second earliest bud burst since the weather records began, the earliest was in 2014 . This year, the vines also began to bloom in warm locations at the end of May, eight to ten days before the 30-year average. Therefore, an early start to harvest was predictable even then, because the grapes are ready for harvest around 90 to 100 days after flowering.

Partial damage through late frosts, drought and sunburn

However, late frosts around the date of the „Ice Saints“ between May 10 and 15, have led to considerable frost damage in a band extending from North Baden via North Württemberg and Franconia to Saale-Unstrut and Saxony. In the two eastern growing areas in particular, relatively large yield losses are expected.

The general drought is also widespread in the German vineyards. There has been repeated rainfall in the last few months, but it was distributed very differently from region to region and often only provided a brief respite. The water supply is similarly varied in the individual wine regions at the moment. Most of the older vineyards are still in relatively good shape, thanks to the deep roots of the older vines. However, young vines and vineyards on soils with little water storage sometimes show symptoms of stress, especially in the current extreme heat waves, and may have to be irrigated.

As in the previous year, temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius (86+ Fahrenheit) have already caused sunburn damage to the grapes across all areas, yet this only reduces the yield and has no influence on the quality of the wine. The extent of the damage can only be estimated after the hot period.

Optimistic outlook for a promising vintage

All in all, the grapes in Germany's vineyards are very healthy at the moment, which means that we can expect beautiful fruity white wines. However, the weather in the next few weeks will be decisive for the quality of the vintage. Winemakers would like to see a little rain first and then a nice Indian summer.

Vintners are cautiously optimistic about a high quality 2020 vintage with good yields. To what extent the total national harvest will be above or below the ten-year average of 8.7 million hectolitres remains to be seen.


source: Deutsches Weininstitut / The German Wine Institute /

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Anna-Maria Löffler, wine queen of the "Pfalz" growing region, during the grape harvest in Weisenheim am Sand. The first grapes of the Solaris grape variety are soley being used for the production of Federweisser (so-called "new wine", "Rauscher" etc.). Photo source: German Wine Institute.