Germany set for earliest ever harvest

After a warm spring and a very sunny midsummer German grape harvest is due to begin unusually early this year. The first grapes for the young wine ‘Federweißer’ will be picked in the wine-growing region Rheinhessen on 6 August already, which is earlier than ever before.

Until now, the earliest start date for harvest has been 8 August in 2014, 2011 and 2007.

Vintners from all 13 German wine-growing regions – from Saale-Unstrut to Baden – observe that grapes ripen early this year. As a result, harvest of ‘Federweißer’ grapes in the regions Rheinhessen or Pfalz, for example, is expected to start at the beginning of August already (video).

This year’s rapid growing season was first marked by early bud-break and warmth, April 2018 becoming the warmest April on record in Germany. High temperatures and long hours of sunshine during the summer further accelerated ripening. In some regions, vine growth is three weeks ahead of the long-term average now.

At this moment in time, the prolonged drought does not yet damage older vines. Roots of older vines go down up to twelve meters which enables them to tap into water reserves well down in the subsoil, unreachable by younger vines which partly need some irrigation at present.

The 2018 vintage looks promising since grapes are in excellent health, they ripen well and are available in sufficient quantity. However, main harvest will begin at the end of August only, and during harvest in September a lot can still happen. The quality of a vintage is also largely determined by weather conditions at the time of harvest. Vintners are currently hoping to see a summer rain within the next weeks and then a nice and dry late summer during the time of harvest. This would create the ideal conditions for a delicious and fully ripe vintage 2018. Prospects are especially good for red wine grapes since they benefit most from the present sunny weather.