Harvest 2020: every berry counts

A harvest of superlatives is coming to an end. Not only did we have the by far lowest yield ever (with about 15hl/ha) but it was also the longest harvest ever starting end of August lasting until the last days of October.

It didn’t start with the usual rush. It actually was a fairly chilled start. We spent the first days with the new crew checking on the ripeness and grape health, visiting the sheep and getting some mirabelles and plums for dessert.

But while the hedges and trees surrounding most of our vineyards were bursting of fruit the majority of the vines wasn’t. Our powerful plot of Bacchus, all the Müller-Thurgau vineyards normally causing crazy long picking days in the beginning of harvest, it often felt like going foraging with a bucket casually hanging inside of the elbow. No Regent, no first generation Schwarzriesling.

At the same time though the sun was shining almost every day and despite the pandemic evoked planning challenge we had the loveliest people here to help. And thank god we still had two vineyards in Iphofen and one in Rödelsee actually providing a decent amount of grapes. Like this Müller-Thurgau …

… and this Silvaner …

… which we picked for the very last time this year as the lease contract has expired. It was one of the steepest vineyards we had and Ethan made the day rolling down the slope like a petrified beetle.

Despite the small amounts coming in most days it was the same amount of work in the winery. Whether you press one or six boxes doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to cleaning.

And fortunately we ended up getting bonus grapes. Our friend Christian from the village of Theilheim offered us a couple of his vineyards to pick. I had played with his grapes before so I roughly knew what to expect from the plants and the soil. Everything biodynamically farmed and some of the beautifully wild. So we ended up going back end forth to Theilheim where the yields were not breathtaking either but it summed up and will shape the Fledermaus and Drei Freunde blends next year.

Our young and energetic crew was a spectacle for everybody passing by and Ella might have been the first women on this hill to ever carry the grapes on her back out of the rows.

And then there were apples.

Our dear friend Krischan had organized an orchard close to the winery for us to pick and we spent five days shaking trees, selecting and collecting ending up with enough juice to fill a Doppelstück in the end.

And just when we’d normally have been finished the second generation of grapes started getting ripe.

If you’re not familiar with the behavior of a grapevine: each cane has buds out of which the shoots with the grapes on them grow. But that’s only the primary buds. As a backup plan the plant has secondary and third buds. Everywhere where the shoots from the primary buds had died completely in the frost-night the backup-buds broke and sometimes produced a serious amount of grapes. While the Heimat Silvaner will just be enough for one barrique (half a hectare!) the Pinots brought at least a few hundred liters to the table.

Not being used to pick that late it’s currently incredibly interesting (and a little scary) to watch the cold, slow skin ferments. After a week on the skins the Heimat Silvaner is still pretty much juice while in. normal years it would have become wine within a week. Not necessarily bad! I expect more maceration flavors, definitively a strong fingerprint of that vintage. A vintage to remember.

Coming to an end and back to the people shaping this harvest: thank you Faye, Daniel, Abigail, Ethan, Evelina, Amit, Ella, Lisa, Polina, Franzi and Mikkel, also not to forget Marcos, Leanne and Aditya. It was a pleasure spending time with you, watching you learn and grow with the challenges. A massive thank you goes to Sophie co-running the show with me always arriving first and leaving last with a smile on her face. And a special thanks of course to Melanie for running company & family while I was gone by herself. It was at least as challenging as what I had to do. Thank you.

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