The overriding problem with the 2012 vintage in Germany is the lack of wine – all growers we visited reported a reduction of at least 30% on their already small yield in 2011. This can be attributed to various factors, the first of which was the cool, windy and on occasion wet weather during flowering and fruit set. This caused a marked reduction in the number of berries on a cluster, directly influencing the final yield. More positively, it did ensure that the fruit remained healthy and clean, with the looser clusters facilitating better circulation of air, reducing incidence of rot. The outcome of this is a vintage rich in fine Auslese and Spätlese level wines, although the absence of botrytis reduced or prevented growers achieving the botrytis concentration they desired for Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese.
It seems that the conditions at the beginning of the growing season dictated the overall character of the vintage. Most growers noted that March was much warmer than usual and many feared that the vines were developing too quickly. These fears were allayed when rainier and cooler, cloudy conditions arrived in April, with the open bunches surviving unscathed from such damps conditions. Temperatures did warm up in May and June but the changeable weather in July caused concern. Salvation came for many in August, September and October; warm days and cool night encouraging even ripening. Rains came but only for short periods which meant that the conditions were not favourable to the development of botrytis.
Depending on the region, the majority of growers started harvesting around mid-October. The latter half of the month saw a continuation of warm, dry days and cool nights. At the end of October there was a distinct fall in temperature with some growers noting that they harvested in temperatures of -4.5 degrees, with the wines losing their leaves due to the sudden drop in temperature. In early November heavy rain and extremely cold conditions meant that it was imperative that all the fruit was harvested in order to achieve great quality wines in 2012.
With hindsight, many of our producers observed that those who rushed to harvest earlier in October have wines that are less ripe, with more green characteristics. Those who took the risk of giving their fruit extra hang time suffered in the cold and wet conditions that came in early November. The success of the vintage was determined by the decision to pick within the two week window at the end of October. Overall, growers who know and understand their vineyards have produced wines that are clean and bright, with high levels of tartaric acid, higher residual sugar (there is much less Kabinett in this vintage than 2011) and ripe fruit.
Fiona Hayes and Katherine Dart, MW - FMV Buying Team