Germany vs. Mother Nature

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-30-2011

Uploaded to flickr by Megan Mallen.

It seemed the lucky streak was bound to hit everyone.

Beaujolais and Burgundy ‘09, Bordeaux ‘10, and now Mosel Riesling in ‘11. Like our wallets needed another pundit shouting “Vintage of the Century” from the rooftops. But it now seems that even Mother Nature has had enough of the ballyhoo.  This past Friday, the middle Mosel suffered from a devastating hail storm that toppled trees, destroyed houses, and even lit barns on fire.

The storm, caught on video here (among many other places), has many wondering what more Mother Nature can heap onto what has already been a dismal year of “Unglueck.” Back in January, Mosel River denizens faced yet another dose of devastating winter watershed, leaving many to wonder whether the water would surpass flood levels reached during the mid-1990s’ catastrophic floods. Who could foresee January as only the wellspring of what now constitutes a series of unfortunate events?

Some sources are estimating storm-related damages at over 300 Million Euro (445 Million USD), a staggering figure that still may not reflect the lost revenue of the Mosel’s much anticipated 2011 harvest (also, here). The storm blasted Grosslage vineyards stretching from Kroev in the northern Nacktarsch into Muelheim and Veldenz’s southern Kurfuerstlay. The names may not mean much to most, but they hedge what is arguably the most hallowed ground for producing the Queen of All Grapes, Riesling. For along the river Mosel between the more established towns of Traben-Trarbach and Bernkastel-Kues lie the the more humble towns of Erden, Zeltingen, Wehlen and Graach, whose vineyards — Erdener Praelat, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Domprobst — produce some of the world’s most renowned white wine (the absolute best, in my humble opinion).

Now, estimates suggest that between 70% and 90% of this year’s lauded crop is in jeopardy, if not lost already. Tragedy this close to harvest is almost impossible to recover from, and some may find it more pressing to rebuild their own homes than to attempt rebuilding this year’s shattered harvest.

What exactly remains for this harvest has yet to be accurately reported, and the thought of another outburst from the ever-temperamental Mother Nature can’t be too far from peoples’ minds. We can only hope and pray producers and their families are able to salvage at least a fraction of good juice from these spectacular sites. While Mosel 2011 may not be the Vintage of a Lifetime in terms of superlative quality, it will no doubt be remembered. And for the sake of German Riesling and everything else that’s great about Deutschland, I’ll raise my glass any day, anytime, to the next person I hear proclaiming “Mosel’s Vintage of the Century.”

That is, as long as it’s from a newly minted Mosel rooftop.

(Many thanks to Ronald Wortel, a dear friend, for bringing this sad news to my attention.)

Comments (1)

  1. Editorial correction: Suedwestrundfunk (SWR) reported estimates of storm-related damage at 30 Million Euro, not “300 Million”, as I stated above. A typo (that I also lured myself into calculating). Dollar equivalent today: about a cool $44M USD.