Harvest 2021: small, long and strong

Over the last years we started getting used to picking earlier and earlier each year. Summer vacations had almost become impossible. So it was hard to believe that this year we’d be back to a schedule that would have been normal when I was a child. In the beginning of September we were all good to go, everything was clean, people arrived but – the grapes were not there yet. Almost there. A-L-M-O-S-T there! This is what I thought every day as I checked the vineyards tasting grapes, looking out for rot, for drosophila suzukii, for the sun to bring the yield to the finish. And after a long period of waiting it wasn’t the usual rush, it was a rather chilled start.

The little bit of Bacchus that survived the mildew disaster was healthy and tasty, not crazy sweet but perfectly ripe and made an excellent skin fermentation. Sadly not enough to also make a Pet-Nat out of it.

The waiting game continued. Analytically not there yet the first Müller-Thurgau’s berries almost starting dropping from the bunches, yellow-ish with brown seeds. It started raining after an hour but with no rush necessary we peacefully could finish it off the next morning.

Often the trailer wouldn’t even have been needed with these small amounts. But there was light too. With that rich water supply the vines had all season long the berries were full of nutritions. Müller-Thurgau hasn’t fermented as powerfully as it did this year which for me is a good thing. Our Müller-Thurgau’s sometimes didn’t do so well in the cellar which I connect to it being a variety that needs (besides other things) plenty of nitrogen to provide enough food for the yeasts in the cellar – which is a tricky balance if you don’t till the soil.

Having fresh blood in the area with Emily and Christoph now residing closely with their Wein Goutte in Hüttenheim, we also had the pleasure getting boxes of beautiful veggies from their garden every now and then which our dear friend Bene converted into delicious meals day in day out. Together with the harvests from our own garden we had plenty of peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, melons, chillies, tomatoes, kale and much more to feed everybody.

And in the end the good old Fledermaus Müller-Thurgau almost saved the day by finally providing a decent amount of grapes – time for group stomping action! After many days ending with a sad box or two it was incredibly satisfying to line them up. I mean, 60 hectoliters per hectare are not crazy much but for us it was a blockbuster yield.

Our colleague Hermann mentioned to me a couple of weeks back that his Aronia fields had been thriving the last years and it’s almost becoming too much. So we thought: wouldn’t that be an interesting mix with apples? Still having enough time for experiments we spent a day in Volkach picking. It took the whole crew a full day to fill up one box which made 140 liters of juice. Wow.

We blended the wine it became with fresh apples juice later to develop bubbles in the bottle and I think it was worth the work. Look at these annoyingly small umbels:

Again we received a little support from our friend Christian in Theilheim so we could at least fill a barrel with Domina for the next Black Betty.

Always fun picking there and a special lunch every time is the one with Jesus in the back.

Finally there was a true highlight for me. The garden vineyard we planted back in 2019 provided grapes for the first time, just enough to fill a small barrel. Trink magazine just published a story on the “Frentsch”, the old name for the field blend from our region. About 20 different varieties. Just look at these grapes.

I destemmed them by hand, stomped late at night and went with our classic skin fermentation which we love for Silvaner – the backbone variety – and often goes well with aromatic varieties like the red and yellow Muskateller included in the mix. The wine’s still young but already showing an absolutely unique flavor profile and it comes with a gorgeous color.

Pinot Gris and Riesling also got hit hard by mildew making this big vineyard just a couple of hours to pick. The Silvaner had an extra challenge added on top with some kind of scab we never had before and were not sure how to deal with. It made the grapes ripen significantly slower but they got there in the end when we were not sure if harvest would take until November.

Apples were picked whenever there was a spare day so a new Cider is underway too. So in the end: a small yield that took a long time to pick but resulted in strongly fermenting juice. The cellar shows really well towards the end of the year, it’s looking good.

None of this of course wouldn’t have been possible with so many helping hands. Thank you everybody.

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