Harvest report 2016 – a challenge of temperatures & acid levels

Pretty much exactly four weeks after we kicked off harvest we’ve finished the phase of picking grapes. While a couple of musts are still fermenting the majority of the wines has arrived in the barrels and finished fermentation. Only one batch with a bit of VA, the rest is excitingly clean.

The key challenge of this year’s harvest were the acid levels. They started dropping relatively early and pretty quickly. We did harvest almost every day for two weeks to get it all in in time. It took us more than 2 days to harvest 0.5ha of Bacchus – which we did harvest for the first time. It’s growing ridiculously strong. I spent a lot of time in this vineyard and we still had to deal with a lot of rot. Thank god I had the best harvest crew ever this year! They did a fantastic job and we got enough grapes for a Pet-Nat, a skin-fermented version and a whole-cluster pressed one.

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Both wines as well as the Pet-Nat have finished fermentation and I really like them.

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The first harvest week was incredibly hot. 35°C is a challenging temperature for the grapes, the must and the harvesters.

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The Regent was picked in light speed due to the perfect condition of the grapes. One batch was picked a bit earlier for crispier acidity, a smaller parcel was allowed to wait for further ripening or death by drosophilia suzukii. We were lucky so there might be a new Große Wanderlust on the horizon.

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Perfect timing also for excellent Schwarzriesling grapes (Fledermaus!) but the yield was disappointing. Half of what I had hoped for in the beginning of the year.

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A good week of semi-carbonic maceration for these beautiful babies – with these warm temperatures most fermentations finished within a week.

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All Müller-Thurgau vineyards were a massive yield-disappointment too. An average below 40hl/ha is not very economic for an entry-level wine. Let’s hope that something like this year of Peronospora will have been an exception for a long time.

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When we did see the rain coming we worked even harder, finishing the last Müller-Thurgau minutes before sunset. With the support of the wonderful Alex Thorp from our UK-importer Wines Under the Bonnet we spent the night pressing the morning’s harvest and destemming the afternoon/evening harvest for some skin fermentation.

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A rainy day was perfect for getting my old basket presses set up and pressing. Here it was the Schwarzriesling to be bottled as Bat-Nat.

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Then there was the Domina harvest. It’s this beautiful old vineyard next to our garden with the sheep taking (more or less) care of it. I’ve been experimenting with this variety and I think I finally cracked it.

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Crushed with feet & love it looks like it’s going to become a kick-ass Rosé.

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With all the earlier varieties and the reds finished the big final was on the horizon: Silvaner. The mentioned rainy weekend had changed the scenery. Sugar levels had dropped as the berries became bigger. But with acid levels being lower than last year already & perfectly ripe tasting grapes there was no reason to wait any longer.

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Everything Silvaner (but one for Pet-Nat) is fermented on the skins. And every Silvaner had a good bit of sunburn. Meaning every vineyard had to be harvested twice. First round for the sunburn to be pressed directly, second round for the good stuff.

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The Heimat Silvaner fermented like a boss. It took like 5 days.

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I thought that might be a little short so I kept it a little longer with some of the stems added 3 days before pressing for an extra touch of dark tannins. I dried them for a good week to make them less green. The quick ferment in particular has given the wine a significant fingerprint. Juice and skins produces different flavors than wine and skins. Compared to the 15 vintage it will have more orange wine characteristics again. It’s really exciting to observe how the wine changes each day in the barrels as malic acid is converted into lactic acid. With the bi-weekly battonage underlining the creaminess.

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And then we got a surprise lamb! Rika was our first sheep born in the vineyard. She is healthy and super cute.

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The last harvest was a bit of a surprise too. A friend had offered us the grapes from his biodynamically farmed Silvaner – but we had to harvest it ourselves. A young vineyard but a pretty big one. Narrow paths made it tricky getting our trailers in place and my dad almost fell down with the whole tractor-trailer-thing on his way back up. But the grapes were beautiful & tasty, I think it will have been worth the effort.

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It had become a lot chillier the last days of the harvest. Meaning cold grapes, cold juice, slow fermentations. Or no fermentation at all. The last 2 Silvaners just didn’t want to start! I put my old heating in the room, nothing. The must remained cold as a fridge. As I bottled the Silvaner Pet-Nat these days I had quite a bit of very fresh yeast left. The Swiss army knife of winemaking. I added a good bucket to every box and boom, one day later there was the desired smell of carbon dioxide. Phew. All of this and a sad quantity (frost …) of Spätburgunder will be pressed the coming Monday. And that’s it!

Time to recover, observe & taste. Cheers!

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