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Germany unveils extreme 2010 vintage

Early glimpses of Germany’s 2010 vintage have revealed extreme wines to match the year’s extreme weather conditions.

An unusual combination of high must density and high acidity has produced very concentrated wines with great ageing potential; a sharp contrast with the soft, youthful appeal of 2009.

Speaking to the drinks business at a tasting of German 2010s held in London yesterday by Justerini & Brooks, Saar winemaker Hanno Zilliken characterised 2010 as having “the lowest yields in 30 years; the highest concentration ever.” His view was backed up by Wilhelm Haag of Fritz Haag, who remarked: “In 50 years I’ve never seen such a vintage.”

Haag suggested that some comparison could be drawn with the 1985 vintage, although he insisted “the quality of 2010 is better.”

Low temperatures during flowering, followed by a very cool, damp August and hail storms in some regions had a dramatic effect on 2010’s yields. The German Wine Insititute reported an average yield that was 25% lower than in 2009, although many of the top estates saw an even bigger shortfall of 40-60%.

Over in the Rheingau, August Kesseler, owner of Weingut August Kesseler, observed: “You either had wines which were terrible or exciting”, He admitted that the wet weather had made it a very bad year for Spätburgunder in particular, saying: “If you get rain you can forget Pinot.”

JJ Prüm had not yet bottled its 2010 vintage and was therefore showing 2009s at the tasting; however Katharina Prüm suggested it would be worth the wait. Although accepting that the vintage was “a little more challenging than 2009”, she declared: “I love 2010, there is a lot of tension showing, high concentration, very intense, very demanding.”

In a year which many agreed will favour the riper styles of Riesling, Prüm revealed that the estate will produce no single vineyard Kabinett in 2010, preferring to start with its Spätlese. Prüm defended the decision on the grounds that the concentration of the vintage would mean that the Kabinett level wines “would not have had individual character.”

Despite their dramatically diminished yields, the majority of producers at the tasting had decided to absorb the financial repercussions of this shortfall, with most setting prices at a similar level to 2009.

Gabriel Savage, 09.06.2011

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