Winegrowers Hope to Press Grapes on Site in Germany's Ahr Region

Ahr Winegrowers Hope to Press Grapes on Site after Catastrophic Floods in July

© Shutterstock

Winegrowers Hope to Press Grapes on Site in Germany's Ahr Region

Ahr Winegrowers Hope to Press Grapes on Site after Catastrophic Floods in July

© Shutterstock

"We are ready"

says Britta Stodden two months after the devastating flood disaster in western Germany's Ahr region. "Tomorrow, on Thursday, the harvest will start with the Frühburgunder," she adds, referring to the local specialty. Just a few weeks ago, it was uncertain at the renowned winery from Rech whether the harvest would be able to be processed on site; the cellar of Carolin and H. O. Spanier in Bodenheim, Rheinhessen.

The pressing, Stodden continues, will be very different from usual in this peculiar, improvised autumn. Because of the enormous amount of dust still present in the Ahr valley, the grapes will not be destemmed and crushed outdoors as in other years.

"We will do everything inside in the wine press house, and in front of the grape reception we will put a sprinkling system that binds the dust, this was organised for us by a friend who works in water technology."

The sorting machine and destemmer were fixed thanks to the efforts of two individuals. "With the press it was too hot for us for hygienic reasons, we now have one loaned from the Scharfenberger company."

Drinking water again at last

Meike and Dörte Näkel in Dernau literally lost everything in the flood – tanks, barrels, machines, vehicles – except for eight salvaged barriques, the entire 2020 vintage. They will also press the grapes on site. "We are connected to new drinking water pipes," Meike Näkel reports, "for the last few weeks there was only so-called service water, and it would have been impossible to press with it.

Almost all that is left of the old press house are the steel girders, but it will work, the most important utensils for making wine are all back, either borrowed or newly bought," says Näkel. The sisters remain concerned about the health of the grapes though, given the still changeable weather. "Grape selection will be an immense effort. But in the end, it can't shock us now either".

Sandblasted cellar

Marc Adeneuer from the J. J. Adeneuer winery in Ahrweiler also reports that he will be pressing wine at his own premises. "We don't have any barrels yet, but we got a new wine press last week, pumps and hoses are also there, and the cellar is sandblasted - which was luckily finished last week - to get the cellar climate clean again. It really looks like we're able to make wine now, in spite of all the mess."

The Frühburgunder (otherwise known as Pinot Noir Précoce) has already been harvested, Adeneuer continues, with a mini yield of 15 litres per acre. "Now, on Saturday, it's the turn of the Spätburgunder in the fermentation chamber." But he's worried about peronospora.

After all, the vines remained without plant protection for a fortnight immediately after the flood - in a phase of high humidity, which was very conducive to the growth of fungal diseases such as downy mildew.

But the priorities of the wineries are naturally different this year than before the flood. There is still a complete state of emergency in the Ahr valley. Meike Näke sums the situation up: "Our whole life has swum away. "And we are still doing well, because everyone knows someone who died in the water. Those who survived, got out of the water on July 15 and started cleaning up. And that's what we're still doing at the moment.