2014: Warm year, cool wines

Although that may sound somewhat contradictory, it fits the 2014 vintage to a "T". This warmest year in recorded weather history produced wines that, thanks to generally warm average temperatures and abundant sunshine, are characteristically well-balanced and -structured with freshness and finesse. A special year, 2014 stands apart from other vintages in terms of climate alone. But let's start from the beginning.

The year 2014 started out warm and dry. The winter showed hardly any frost, average temperatures during the first four months were 3.3 degrees (Celsius) above the long-term average with approximately 100mm less rainfall. The relatively cool and wet month of May rang in a rainy and warm summer (with the exception of the very dry month of June), which in spite of the rain still had many more hours of sunshine.

What does this all mean for the Mittelhaardt 2014 vintage? An earlier than usual bud break was expected; in the warmer vineyard sites it began as early as the 4th of April. Flowering began on 4 June and therefore three weeks earlier than long-term averages show. A brief drop in temperatures during the flowering process caused the fruit set to drop diminishing potential crop yield. However, the circumstances also allowed for a completely natural, very loose cluster of grapes which ripens better and is less prone to rot. That essentially was 2014. Moderate temperatures and abundant rainfall throughout the summer combined with many hours of sunshine made for a slow, balanced development of the grapes and a very good incorporation of flavors. Cool nights allowed the acids to fall very slowly. The first grapes of the year – in our case, used traditionally to make base wine for sparkling wine – were brought into the cellar on 8 September with a low pH-value and a wonderfully fresh acid content. They are almost indistinguishable from the sensational 2013 sparkling wine year considering analytic data. Acid levels dropped slightly when harvesting for still wine production began, the physiological maturity in all varieties brought to the winepress was virtually perfect. The vintage's only shortcoming was noticeable in the rich, sweet Rieslings: there was virtually no Botrytis (noble rot). We could harvest only Scheurebe and Rieslaner grapes as Auslese and, in minute quantities, as Beerenauslese. In most of the vineyards the Rieslings, which generally have a hardier skin, did not ripen enough to qualify as Spätlese. Even though, these will certainly arouse enthusiasm!

Still wines in 2014 largely tended to be somewhat more full-bodied and extract-rich, with less acidity and a very clear, pure aroma. They will be available much earlier than its predecessor. However, we will still give this vintage all the time it needs in the barrel on yeast to fully develop and unfold. This means that even though you will find 2014 vintages already being sold, you will have to have a bit more patience with us until our wines are ready. After all, you can't rush quality. Your patience will be rewarded with independent, complex and significantly more stable wines for long-term aging.

A few comments about the vintage by those in the know…

Mathieu Kauffmann, Technical Director and Winemaker: Even when the year's weather was entirely incomparable to 2013, both wines are similar in their analytic data. But from a sensory vantage point they are completely different! For me, at this point, 2014 is significantly more open and somewhat more full-bodied, with more extract and a nice spicy character. If I were asked to pick out a vineyard that surprised me the most in 2014, it would be the Herrgottsacker or our different plots at Herrgottsacker. We deliberately vinified individual parts separately and the result is sensational. But von Buhl has really excellent plots, high up, between Deidesheimer Mäushöhle and Förster Ungeheuer; I was absolutely sure that there would be a lot of potential there. This is only one out of many examples. It's a wonderful playground for me, and I got to know much more about the individual plots – especially in years such as 2013 and 2014!

Werner Sebastian, Director of Vineyard Operations: Just as we were getting ready to seriously harvest the grapes for still wines, on 20 September we had 25 liters of precipitation. At the same time it was predicted that the weather would improve, but I couldn't help imaging it getting worse. I thought we'd lose the whole vintage. Luckily it stayed dry, with a good wind, sunny, not too warm, enough so that the vines and the grapes were able to recover nicely from that rain. But just the same, we weren't able to do anything for a week since the must weight initially fell on account of the rain. From 27 September on, every hand we had was busy every day harvesting the grapes vineyard by vineyard, and we got everything home in the best of conditions. Samples of the young wine show much promise; its aroma and taste indicate an extraordinary year, especially the Riesling and Pinot varieties.