Terry Theise’s 2016 Germany Vintage Report

I too was rather puzzled by Terry’s comments on the 2015 vintage, to me, one of those super star vintages you will seldom experience in a lifetime.

As for the 2016s, there is certainly no lack of potential threats to the quality of the vintage. Miserable cold and bad weather during flowering, frost in certain areas (the best way to burn 5000 in euro bills, a comment made by Cornelius Dönnhoff as he showed a photo of regular patterns of fires at night to prevent frost in Oberhäuser Brücke), a cold and rainy beginning of summer, hail and in some parts more hail (as one winemaker told me - “it’s as if the hail wasn’t pleased with the destruction the first time around, so it came back once again to finish the job”, not to mention the ultra-speed with which mildew spread in the vineyards, taking many estates by surprise and punishing those hard who didn’t spray fast enough. There were certainly enough factors around to make this a very troublesome vintage and all winemakers I spoke to said the same thing - they thought they were in for some real trouble this year.

What seemed to have saved them - unfortunately for our personal finances - and made them yet again produce some utterly delicious wines, was the weather turn-around. I don’t remember when it was, but somewhere at the end of July, when many winemakers summerized that by now they’ve had as much rain as (normally) in the entire year so could it please just…stop. And well, it did. I don’t know if they performed some kind of ancient anti-rain dance ceremony but as bad as the first half of the growing season was, as good was the second half, which for most parts is more important. One winemaker told me that after July he wished they wouldn’t see another drop of rain until the harvest was finished but in fact, when the harvest period arrived, they even had some water stress in the vineyards. I spent considerable time travelling between the German wine regions doing as much photography as my poor camera could cope with and there were some quite happy faces the last weeks of harvest when they were picking grapes in t-shirts way into November. During the day, mind you, while starting the morning harvest dressed as Inuits - illustrating the perfect combination of sunny, relatively warm days and freezing nights. Perfect for slow grape ripening during the most critical phase of the growing cycle.

The few wineries I tasted at recently, produced some utterly compelling wines. And as Lars pointed out, 2016s can hardly be defined as a “low-acid-vintage”. One has to remember that Germany is a big country with great diversity so it very much depends on the subregion and even producer. Regarding Terry’s initial report, there are some things I agree with, and some which I don’t subscribe to. Although I suspect I know the identity of the undisclosed winemaker Terry was high-fiving, I don’t agree - in general - with the assessment of the 2015 having too much acidity. But then again, who has the “Truth”? It’s all a matter of personal taste and I’m sure if you were sitting down with Terry at the table there wouldn’t be a fight about it but rather a highly entertaining philosophic journey with lots of laughter. I do agree on Willi Schaefer but not because it was so much better than 2015 but because it was at a level I didn’t think they would reach in a vintage like 2016. What I don’t agree on, is Dönnhoff’s Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese, to me, the weakest of the Spätlese lineup.

However, bear in mind, as has been pointed out, these wines are tasted as tank samples, with the wines still resting on their lees. They have yet to be filtered (which really scares me because I know they will become even more focused and crystalline once they are), and yet to be bottled. As for Terry’s high accolades of Selbach-Oster, I have yet to taste a single wine from them but they have their annual presentation very soon so it will be fun to taste 25+ wines and see what Terry is drooling about. And of course, the picture of the 2016 vintage will become even clearer the day after, when the Mainzer Weinbörse opens up the gates to a flood of German wine producers. Usually, I never attend wine fairs because they seem completely overwhelming to me but two years ago I made my first attempt here and I set the bar quite high - I would try to taste EVERY wine poured. Two days later and completely exhausted, I had to laugh at myself for such a ridiculously unachievable goal. I might have tasted 10% of the wines. Last year I had a go at it again. This time somewhat crippled since I had to fly back to work at my school the next day, so I took a flight that prevented me to stay the entire second day. But I was more efficient and managed to taste what might even be…12% of all wines presented. Only goes to show how difficult it is to get a bird’s view of the entire German wine region.

It was beautiful harvest weather, what the Germans call the “Golden October.” But the warm, wet weather in May and June was a big problem. I won’t name names, but a number of producers in the Mosel wine region lost a lot of their crop due to downy mildew (peronospora).


Sadly I know some too…

Will you be tasting in Mainz?

Miran, I’m not planning to be at the Mainzer Weinbörse (VDP.Weinbörse), but I’ve been invited to attend the tasting.

Miran, have you tasted the S-O 2016s yet?


Maureen, already last month - all of them except for the en-bloc-picked Auslese. What to say? The best producers seem to have turned 2016 into something very special. Agree on some of Terry’s observation. Especially about Willi Schaefer. Had I not tasted the 2016s I wouldn’t have believed Terry’s words.

On the downside…I have hundreds of tasting notes but full-time teaching takes its toll. And travels as I’m waiting for take-off to Tuscany. :slight_smile:

Did you have any chance to taste any Selbach Oster? I love the Kabinetts. And it’s a special treat to taste the Ur-Alte Reben Spätlese Trocken. Ahhh, 100+ year old ungrafted vines - not often you come across such rarities…