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German Vintage Reports: 2021, 2020, 2019

German Vintage Reports: 2021, 2020, 2019

German Wine Vintages

How is the 2021 Vintage?  

German 2021s are a return to a truly cool-climate, old-school style of wine. Wines are racy, electric, spine-tingling, with the Kabinetts reigning supreme. If Austria offers pure pleasure, Germany captures the pizzazz.

After an unseasonably warm February the temperatures dropped once more for an exceptionally cold March, April and May. June and July were cooler than normal, but also came with torrential down pours. The Ahr saw devastation, and many low lying vineyards elsewhere were also adversely affected. The cool and wet conditions have made it the most expensive to farm in living memory.

The fall dried out, allowing the grapes to finally reach maturity in October and November. Farmers had to return to a time where ripeness was sought out, rather than slowed down. All the extra time in the vineyards has meant quality fruit, but with acid levels absolutely unheard of this decade.

Classic Mosel style wines: a of juxtaposition of wispy, airy texture, against deeply concentrated minerality and just enough fruit to remember this wine started as a grape, were the norm, not the exception.

This style is getting harder and harder to achieve in the age of warming climates as once-perfectly-suited south facing hills now are almost too hot. But 2021 is like a time machine, a throwback to a time when achieving ripeness was difficult, when you played roulette with the weather, waiting just one more day for slightly riper grapes, hoping the rains wouldn't start before you got there.

Until the late 80's, Kabinett was a dime a dozen as lower sugar levels were the easier to reach consistently. They were not given the appreciation they deserved. It was the sweeter, more powerful Spätlese and Auslese that were prized by Riesling drinkers. These days, sweeter wines are almost always achievable, just as the favor for the style is at its lowest, and the delicately styled Kabinett have almost become a thing of the past.

2021 was a reminder of what perfectly balanced, ethereal Kabinett can do. The market has responded accordingly. At the fall VDP Mosel auction, a special bottling of the Wehlen Sonnenuhr Kabinett flipped the pricing hierarchy on its head and went for a record breaking €405 ($427)!!! With the Spät and Aus at €350 and €300, respectively.

The point is, this is the year for lovers of cold-climate German Riesling to go big or go home. It may be the last time we get to enjoy this particular style, for a long, long time, maybe ever. Do not hesitate to add these to your collection.

Besides the impeccable Kabinetts, the dry GG wines are thrilling, relying on minerality and elegance rather than power and density. Once the rain stopped there was almost no botrytis so you will see precious few Auslese, BA or TBA wines. Don't worry there are plenty of other treasures to discover!

How was Germany's 2020 vintage?

German 2020s are filigreed, elegant and absolutely delicious.

The fruit was incredibly clean, pure, exotically aromatic, with good acidity levels, similar to 2012 and 2015, but with more delicacy and less power. Kabinett, Spätlese and the dry wines are inducing bouts of glee. The Auslese, BA, TBA and Eisweins are going to be gorgeous but, in very short supply thanks to dry, sunny conditions.

The vintage was not without its challenges: early bud break, warm temperatures, lack of rain, lower than average yields, and of course labor shortages thanks to the pandemic. But all of these were mitigated by experienced growers and some lucky breaks in the weather coming at exactly the right time. Producers were fearing the earliest harvest ever, but nighttime temperatures dropped at the end of August and light rains fell in some regions, retaining acidity and extending harvest, making this the longest harvest in history for most.

2019

German 2019s are producer and region driven. The best winemakers made incredible wines, as usual. Down in the Pfalz, conditions were perfect and Von Winning put out another set of stellar offerings, with more structure than 2018. The Nahe got more rain than normal, but our favorite producers invested heavily in manpower to bring in healthy fruit, and rigorous grape selection to ensure only the very best berries made it into the wine. That selection lowered production, but preserved acidity, which is complemented by a mineral and herbal focus rather than plush fruit. For the full rundown on each producer we've included videos, bio's, tasting notes and the vintage report.

 

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German Vintage Report: 2022

German Vintage Report: 2022

How was the 2022 vintage in Germany?

2022 was nothing short of a miracle.

On the heels of the thrilling "classic" vintage of 2021 I was skeptical there would be much to go gaga over in 2022. How, in the age of climate change, could we expect two acid-driven vintages in a row? Especially with such divergent weather patterns. But in practice I and my acid freaks are going to have plenty to enjoy in 2022.

Wines are nothing short of fantastic with another balanced set of Kabinetts, much easier to drink upon release than last year. I tasted through 300 wines in Germany last month and loved what the vintage offered. Christoph Schaefer called them "fruity with great elegance." Nearly across the board it's a set of bright, high-acid wines, low in alcohol, with fully ripe fruit, and already absolute pleasure to enjoy already.

Predictions for the harvest and the quality of the vintage were doom and gloom up until the end. So how did we get from doomsday to my happy place?

2022 was the driest year on record. There was minimal rain and snow over the winter meaning there was not a lot of ground water and no rain between May and July. Temperatures soared like in 2018 and 2020 and farmers were expecting the worst: an early harvest, spiking sugar, plunging acidity, and poor phenolic ripeness. They'd need a miracle to get the quality they wanted.

Harvest was in fact the earliest ever, starting with sparkling wine grapes in the last week of August. A few nervous nellies then brought in the entry level Riesling grapes. And that miracle came, just in the nick of time.

Rain fell and nighttime temperatures dropped. Some producers in the Rheingau and Pfalz where Riesling was ready, rushed harvest before the rain or between downpours. But many, including those in the Mosel and Nahe were gifted with an 8 week extension of hang-time. Christoph Loewen reported that the final day of his harvest was actually the SAME for 2021 and 2022.

The cool Autumn temps kept acidity levels above similarly hot and dry years like 2018, 2019, and 2020 (lower than in 2021 but nothing has been that high since the 80s!). They reminded me of 2020 in their delicacy and ripeness, but with a steelier core, or 2016, but with more finesse or 2010, but more open and easier to enjoy now. The fruit spectrum was much more white pith and green lime than expected, only moving towards orange juice and tropical mango in the hottest sites, on sandstone soils, or the Spätlese levels and above.

One reason acidity stayed so buoyant and sugar so tempered was because the heat and water stress shut down the ripening of the vines during the worst of it. This saved vine resources for survival, but gifted us with incredibly balanced fruit.

As noted, the Kabinetts were great, but the GG's also fared well, with a lithe yet tensile quality to them, some were enjoyable right off the bat, although I expect them to shut down for a while in the next 6 months or so.

On the sweeter side of things is a gorgeous collection of more restrained Spätlese but unfortunately very few Auslese were made and just about no BA or TBA. In the end there was a struggle to achieve high levels of sugar ripeness and almost no noble rot.

Besides a lack of sweet wines there is one other downside, quantity. Water stress meant yields were already very low and rain brought disease pressure, extensive sorting, and more fruit on the floor. Quality wine producers had their most expensive harvest, as full manpower was needed, across a long stretch of time for a tiny harvest. At Willi Schaefer, their goal is 34,000 bottles a year, but made 23,000 in 2021 and a paltry 17,000 bottles in 2022 (be ready for those cuts!).

Normally there are variations between all the different wine regions, and very different outcomes in Germany and Austria. But in 2022, there was a surprising consistency throughout the teutonics. These are some great wines, in short supply, so get 'em while they're hot.

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Heidi Schröck & Söhne

Heidi Schröck & Söhne

Heidi Schröck & Söhne logo

Heidi Schröck & Söhne


 This Article Contains

People |

Heidi Schröck & her twins Johannes & Georg

Heidi Schröck & her twins Johannes & Georg

Focus |

Tradition and momentum. Heidi fights to keep the culture of that shaped Rust by crafting some of its greatest sweet wines, reviving lost varieties and methods. Johannes & Georg push her into the future with relevant, artisanal natural wines or purity and fun.


Country |

Austria

​​Austrian wine map

Region |

Burgenland

Burgenland

Sub Region/Village |

Rust

Rust

Climate |

Moderate Continental 

  • Clearly delineated seasons, hot summers, cold winters.
  • Each region in Austria is characterized by its proximity to the two competing cold and hot weather patterns.
  • South from the Danube, in Burgenland they face the Pannonian plain and the full brunt of its warm westerly winds. 
  • This heat is what allows red grapes to ripen at such a northerly latitude 
  • Northern Burgenland gets 2,000 hours of sunshine annually, which makes it the sunniest region in all of central Europe, 
  • Below average rainfall. 
  • There is a cross over from primarily white wine country into red wine country
  • The northern tip, at the Slovakian border, gets a touch of cooling influence of north wind from across the Weinviertel
  • The southern Eisenberg region is the coolest from air flowing down the eastern Alps.
  • Temperatures decrease the higher in elevation you go, so vineyards on mountains and even hillsides retain more acidity. 
  • Old forests encroach on vineyards and act as temperature regulators, cooling things down, offering shade and buffering winds from both the alps and the pannonian plain. 

Moderate Continental climate

Vineyards |

  • Turner: In the heart of the hills of Rust, soils are called “Rust gravel” which is a mix of sediments of crystalline rock, limestone, and sand.
  • Ruster: Loamy sand with gray quartz and schist
  • Kulm: The oldest of Heidi’s sites, planted by 3 of her great aunts in 1955. Sand over clay.

Grape Varieties |

  • Pinot Blanc / Weissburgunder
    • the secret weapon Austrian whites. 
    • It was brought over with the Cisterian monks in the 10th century and is grown in small pockets in all the wine regions. 
    • Similar to Chardonnay, but with softer flavors and acidity. 
    • Makes great simple quaffing wines. But grown in the best plots it makes some of the most surprisingly concentrated and long lived wines in the country. 
    • It’s not exported often so bottles are hard to find outside of Austria, but not to be missed if you can lay your hands on one.
  • Furmint
    • The last little engine that could, finally having made its way back from Hungary to its old stomping grounds around the Neusiedlersee. 
    • It is famous as the main grape in Tokaj, one of the world’s most famous sweet wines made from botrytized grapes.
    • A few growers replanted cuttings from across the Hungarian border, once they were reopened. 
    • Like in Hungary today, some winemakers are making gorgeous dry wines as well as sweet
    • These are fresh, mineral and textural wines due to the high levels of acidity naturally present. Think Chenin Blanc from Saumur.
  • Muskateller / Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains 
    • Muskateller is the most sought after variety from the large, ancient family of the muscat grapes. 
    • Most other countries make some version of sweet wine from it, the most famous being Vendange Tardive in Alsace. But Austria makes the best dry versions with great examples from most reputable producers. 
    • The overtly floral bouquet is tempered by its light body and bright acidity, making it a refreshing option on a hot summer day.
  • Pinot Gris / Grauburgunder
    • A pink-skinned genetic mutation of Pinot Noir.
    • Likely introduced from across the border in nearby Alsace by Cistercian monks. 
    • Takes on many styles in Germany. 
    • The country is the world’s third-largest producer of the grape.
    • Typically dry and can range from light and fresh to rich and oak-aged. 
    • Most of the time, these wines are more concentrated and flavorful than Pinot Grigio of Italy, with notes of apple, pear, and nuts.
    • Because of its pink skins, Pinot Gris also makes delicious orange wines. 

Pinot Gris / Grauburgunder grapes

  • Welschriesling, 
    • Not to be confused with Riesling, or Rhein Riesling
    • Prevalent throughout Burgenland. 
    • Most dry examples are innocuous, but it makes exceptional sweet wines.
    • Thin skinned and easily infected with noble rot
    • Acidity is very high, which balances the high sugar content of sweet wines. 
    • Old vines on high-elevation slopes, farmed with care can make textured, interesting dry wines with a very high price to quality ratio.
  • Zweigelt
    • a crossing of Blaufränkisch and Sankt Laurent
    • The most widely planted red grape in Austria 
    • Capable of making oak aged, opulent wines
    • Best suited for early consumption. 
    • It is almost always violet in color with notes of cherry and raspberry, pepper and pleasingly mouth watering sweet tarts. The crunchy acidity lends way to easily navigated tannins. 
    • Some carbonic styles have the joie de vivre of Beaujolais. 
    • Sparkling wines made in a pet-nat style are increasingly popular and as an everyday pizza pairer it’s hard to beat.
  • Blaufränkisch
    • An indigenous grape 
    • Can make wines that are both distinctive but also that have the ineffable feel of true classic
    • Naturally high acidity with medium plus to high tannins, balanced by concentrated fruit
    • excellent aging potential, but very approachable in youth. 
    • A Chinese five spice note is typical
    • Fruit and structure are dictated by its soil types: typically red on limestone, black on slate, blue on schist.
    • Like Pinot Noir, Blaufränkisch is not an especially easy grape to grow
    • Needs proper site selection and knowledgeable winemakers to tame its acidity and tannin. 
    • Wines are often underpriced for their quality.

Blaufränkisch

Farming |

Sustainable

​​

Cellar Work |

Traditional & Natural

  • Some wines call for sulfur and filtering
  • Other wines are made with zero additions or subtractions
  • Each wine is not a recipe but stands on its own

About the winery |

Heidi is like the cool aunt who bought you beer in highschool and introduced you to Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks. This maven of Rust has spent her life fostering its culture and traditions. A place she has intimate knowledge of as the 8th matriarch of her family estate. 


Her collection of vineyards surrounds the town on well drained slopes of gravel, sand, clay and limestone soil. She’s got a wealth of very old vines, yet continues to experiment with new varieties and training techniques, trying to stay ahead of the world’s rapidly changing weather patterns and tastes. 


Heidi was a founding member of Cercle Ruster Ausbruch, an organization formed by the few remaining Ausbruch producers. Once the most famous wine of Austria, it had nearly been lost to phylloxera and was nearly lost to history. The group has also replanted Furmint, the main grape in Hungarian Tokaj, celebrated for its high acidity and sensitivity to botrytis. It disappeared after phylloxera wiped it out but is now being prized once more for not just sweet but incredible dry wines reminiscent of Loire Valley Chenin Blanc.


Her twin sons are now on board and have given an already vibrating estate new energy. They love wine and experimentation. The wines these days are more diverse and better than ever.


What do the wines taste like?

The dry wines of the estate are split between classic and modern cuveés, like her old-vine Blaufränkisch and wild Rosé Biscaya. These are down home, almost rustic bottles, true to their place.


The sweet wines though, especially the whimsical sounding Wings of Dawn, should be in every collector’s cellar. These are some of the most balanced, complex, exciting and just straight delicious bottles of sugar, acid, and grapes you can imagine.


New cuveés, experimental, natural, and one-offs are thought provoking, clean and slurpable. I couldn’t get enough of their pet-nat at my last visit.


Wines on Offer |

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, 21 Buckets [Hárslevelű], 2021

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, 21 Buckets [Hárslevelű], 2021 $30.99 $27.27

"Harslevelu means linden leaf – could also be the sound a Hungarian makes when sneezing. Planted the vineyard in 2013, 2021 was the first vintage we did on its own. More floral, it does kind of smell like linden flowers, orchard flowers and spring. The table wine of the Hungarian kings. It is never high in alcohol. This is very good and daresay refreshing, but with a texture midway between Weissburgunder and Furmint. Nice acidic snap to move from mid-pal to the finish. Done entirely in barrel, no temp control." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Amphore Amore

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Amphore Amore, 2021 $41.99 $36.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Beerenauslese [BA]

 Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Beerenauslese [BA], 2022 (375ml) $48.99 $43.11

"This has a sharper more acid driven kind of classic BA aroma – mostly welschie, this is in barrique still and a lot of botrytis. I like the freshness here too – a little bit of ripe, warm apple character, like pie without the crust. Good energy as the wine moves from front to back." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Blaufränkisch Ried Kulm

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Blaufränkisch Ried Kulm, 2022 $28.99 $25.51

"Planted in 1955, 1926 these women, Heidi’s aunts, ran the winery until 1969 before they gave the estate to Heidi’s dad. 3,000 bottles produced. This feels more elegant and fresh, since Georg has adopted the NZ style of lower extraction and while the tannins are here present. This is one of the best vintages of this wine I have tasted." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Furmint

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Furmint, 2021 $32.99 $29.03

"Less aromatic and waxier. Very good, this has excellent verve and energy. Heidi’s dad said you must plant Furmint in the best places, so planted in the Vogelsang and the heart piece above the village. Only 25ha in Austria and half of them are in Rust. The older people called it the Riesling of the east, which has the acidity of Riesling – used to be spur pruned to reduce yield. a Fruilian princess in the 11th century married a Hungarian and brought the rootstocks with her to the area. The Furmintini family name came from the varieties." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Gelber Muskateller

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Gelber Muskateller, 2022 $26.99 $23.75

"1/3 of a Ha. grown entirely in Vogelsang, mid slope – this is not green, but more on the ripe side, one day on skin and then pressed. This was always called “Vyra” which meant incense a long time ago. This is very good, refreshing but a bit lower register and is riper and orange in character." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

 

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Grauburgunder

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Grauburgunder, 2020 $35.99 $31.67

"Cistercian monks came in the 14th century from France, they almost had an empire. They knew which varieties to plant on each soil. 2nd, 3rd use small barrels. This has some oak influence, and goes through malo. Heidi likes to make risotto and drink this wine. Some savory elements match with this brightness and the kind of deep starchiness that can sometimes overload this wine. There is a bit more texture here that is coming from lees – no sedimentation here." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, On the Wings of Dawn Ausbruch,

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, On the Wings of Dawn Ausbruch, 2021 (375ml) $94.99 $83.59

"A very small amount of PG, but mostly Welschie, this is fantastic. “I was able to harvest some PG from my cousin who was renovating and on the coldest day of the year, he invited us to pick what we wanted. A small amount of PG pimps it up!” says Heidi. This is more concentrated, more thick and viscous, but not cloying. This would kill on the menu with a light, fruit dessert." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Pinot Pét Nat

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Pinot Pét Nat, 2021 $32.99 $29.03

"This is very good, clean, not too cloudy or dirty, not picked super early. “It must have a certain kind of ripeness” this has a tiny bit of the tannin from the lees actually, a little more sweet fruited" — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

 

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Tour de Rosé

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Tour de Rosé, 2022 $23.99 $21.11

"Still this field blends growing on the top of the hill “Ruster Weingarten''. There was a huge elm tree forest and then a virus killed them all, the town is named after the tree. 2Ha, the biggest vineyard in one place. The idea was to make a red wine vineyard with all of these vines, but 2008 was a catastrophe, so in 2009 started. Planted in 2004. This year it’s quite good. It has a sweet fruit (strawberry, frutti del bosco character with some kind of red wine notes like light coffee, torrification." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Weissburgunder

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Weissburgunder, 2022 $25.99 $22.87

"From two vineyards on the limestone side of rust near Schutzen, the other vineyard on the primary rock from the other side. This is a bit on the richer side but very friendly, it has the balance (a little in stainless and in barrel) this is a very charming wine, not too rich with a distinctive mineral imprint that reminds me a bit of Ciringa in texture, but not in flavor." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Welschriesling & Weissburgunder Spätlese

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Welschriesling & Weissburgunder Spätlese, 2021 (375ml) $28.99 $25.51

"Welschie and SB this has 70g but reads as very balanced - has good acidity and not too much fruit fat, it’s not round exactly but neither is it angular, it has softer edges and has this kind of front of the pal fruitiness that reads as rich and less herbal than some vintages, ripe lemon peel and soft sweetness." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

 

 

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Welschriesling More is More

Heidi Schröck & Söhne, Welschriesling More is More, 2021 (1L) $18.99 $16.71

"This has a bit more character and a little bit deeper fruit character than in 2021. Less crisp and light, has a bit more weight actually. Welschie should be easy drinking and this accomplishes that – nothing else like this in the portfolio." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines

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