2015: The Year of the Vine

The grapevine's amazing ability to adapt during the summer of 2015 demonstrated its special status among all cultivated plants. That is, when the vine is not interfered with and nature is allowed to take its course. And this is what we believe was the key to success during the extremely dry year of 2015.

We had already experienced a comparatively dry end-of-year 2014 in the vineyards of the Mittelhaardt. Then slightly above-average rainfall in January 2015 brought some relief, unfortunately followed by seven straight months of very little rain. Looking at long-term averages, we should have been experiencing a good 120mm of rainfall during the same period. Based on those figures it looked incredibly bad. But the vine doesn't analyze statistics, it fights back. And that is what it did in 2015, with bravura! Our philosophy is to work with nature, to adapt our work in the vineyard to weather conditions, to not irrigate the plants and to thin out and prune only the shaded parts. This proved to be a clear advantage not only during a dry year, but also during a very sunny year. Plenty of sunshine, warm temperatures and no rain - winegrowers easily react to this trio of conditions with impatience. It is not easy to resist temptation to take action; it is more stressful to wait for rain than to just turn on the irrigation system. Then, finally, on the 18th of June a much hoped for downpour brought a good 10mm of rain. And the 22nd and the 27th of June each delivered another 10mm of rain.  Still, it seemed as if the grapevine took it as a warning to prepare for more months of dry weather.

Let us now talk about the benefits of dry, sun-soaked vintages: we will remember 2015 as perhaps the "cleanest" year in winemaking history. No vine diseases, none. Never before have we experienced such a uniform, consistent maturity within the vineyards. During harvest we go from vine to vine and pick only the healthiest grapes at ideal physiological ripeness. The harvest started earlier than usual, earlier than we had ever experienced in the history of Reichsrat von Buhl. Picking began on 31 August with Pinot Noir grapes which we use to produce sparkling wines. This was followed by Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay, again for the production of sparkling base wines, as well as the first Rieslings. Since so many plots reached ideal ripeness at the same time, we picked for five solid weeks, continuously without a break. A tour de force. But it was worth it. Better than we even anticipated. A few selected plots were left almost completely unpicked and reserved for Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese. When the main harvest was long past we were able to harvest some very promising qualities for sweet wines.

Following this very detailed glimpse at the weather conditions of 2015, we should make a first attempt to assess the year's specific style of wine. And those who thought our 2013 and 2014 wines were too tart will be delighted. Yes, 2015 has less acidity than previous years. And that makes it easier for our bone-dry style of wine to stand out in its youth. While the estate and local wines in 2013 are only now properly developing and unfolding - two years after harvest - 2015 barrel samples already show a fruity character and good structure. They have a natural seductiveness and inner harmony that allows us to anticipate an excellent vintage. But right now they are continuing to develop with yeast, sulfur-free. And even when a young wine shows promise (such as the 2015 vintage), we still deliberately resist the temptation to bottle early and hope for your patience. 

Words from the vineyard and cellar: 

Werner Sebastian, Director of Vineyard Operations: The vine and its incredible stamina in the face of this year's extreme conditions have earned my respect. We were able to harvest sensational grapes after a summer that was so dry, I thought we would not be harvesting at all this year. But the vine adapts to the climate and we learn something new every year. We certainly benefited the most from what we learned in 2003, particularly about working the soil and pruning. What a vintage, the picture of health and every variety harvested, from quality to Trockenbeerenauslese. A vintner couldn't ask for anything more...

Mathieu Kauffmann, Winemaker: One thing I am absolutely sure of, early harvesting was our key to success. Much was said during the grape harvest about an apparent low acidity, some said acidification was a great countermeasure. The same thing was said in 2013 about de-acidification. I think this is all complete nonsense. That's all technical talk; it has nothing to do with instinct or sensibility. If I learned one thing in my career as a winemaker in various wine regions, it's that you can't wrap taste in numbers and statistics. As in previous years, we have not intervened in the inner structure of the 2015 wines, no acidity adjustment - hands off; harmony comes from within, it should never be interfered with! Each vintage has its own character and that has to be tasted, not artificially manufactured. After a sample tasting in the cellar, it is already clear that the 2015 vintage is intense with a remarkably strong fruit accent; the wines are light on the palate without being overly alcoholic.