The Near-Perfect 2020 Harvest at Dr. Loosen
“Grapes Like From a Picture Book!”
BERNKASTEL/MOSEL, GERMANY – The 2020 growing season and harvest both got off to an early start here in the Mosel, but ended up giving us picture-perfect fruit for excellent dry wines, as well as brilliant off-dry and medium-sweet wines at the lower end of the Prädikat spectrum. When describing the 2020 vintage overall, our cellar master, Bernhard Schug, summed it up best by simply calling it “a Kabinett/Spätlese year.”
As usual, Erni Loosen was rather more talkative: “2020 reminds me of a classic Mosel vintage,” he said. “It was not as warm as the years before, so the must weights were not off the charts when the harvest started. The acidity is well integrated into the wines, with an excellent ratio of malic to tartaric acid, and we had enough ripeness to produce some higher-Prädikat wines later in the harvest.”
After a mild winter, our summer began abruptly in April. The warm weather, together with sufficient rainfall, ensured an early and relatively fast budbreak. This resulted in a very early flowering, which began in the second half of May and was already completed by June, even in higher-elevation vineyards. This was followed by a long dry phase that lasted until September. What little precipitation did occur happened only in localized areas, so we had to do some hand-watering in vineyards with younger vines. Our older vineyards, however, coped much better with the lack of water, thanks to their deep, well-established root systems.
The continuous heat and dryness, with temperatures topping 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees F) – sometimes even higher in the steepest, south-facing slopes – slowed the previously rapid development of the grapes. As a result, the harvest yield was somewhat lower than had been predicted in summer. However, the yield in 2020 was still 13 percent higher than the 10-year average, and a whopping 45 percent higher than in 2019.
Our harvest started on September 4, with the small parcels of Pinot Noir that we have in the Ürziger Würzgarten vineyard. We use these grapes for our vintage Pinot Noir Rosé Sekt, which is produced in the traditional method and remains on the lees for at least five years before disgorgement. After that, we harvested our parcels of Pinot Blanc, and did a small pre-harvest in several Riesling vineyards to remove any negatively botrytis-affected fruit.
As the harvest progressed, our Riesling vineyards developed so beautifully that we were able to harvest “grapes like from a picture book,” as vineyard manager Roland Orthmann put it. Due to the excellent health of the grapes, with a low percentage of botrytis, the normally labor-intensive selection process was relatively effortless and relaxed. At the end of the harvest, however, we were able to select out a small amount of “clean,” partially-affected botrytis clusters for Auslese.
It should also be noted that this was our first harvest in a newly acquired parcel of the famous Bremmer Calmont vineyard. With an inclination of 65 degrees, this is the steepest, most treacherous vineyard in the world, so you can imagine that it turned out to be an extremely complex undertaking to pick this fruit. But it is a historically renowned Grosse Lage (grand cru) vineyard for good reason, and we have high expectations for the wine, which will be a Riesling GG.
And last but not least, on the final two days of the harvest, a few rows of healthy grapes in Erden were enclosed in protective sheeting to shelter them from hungry birds and wild boar, in the hopes of harvesting Eiswein this vintage. Given the changing climate, it is extremely risky to even attempt to get Eiswein, since it is no longer assured that a deep enough freeze will come at all. Thankfully, on January 11, it finally got down to –7 degrees C (19 degrees F). So we rousted the whole team in the wee hours of the morning, trundled out in the freezing dark, and harvested 1,000 liters of a very promising estate Riesling Eiswein. It’s our first since 2016!
This year gave us so much healthy, botrytis-free fruit to work with, that very little noble sweet wine will be produced. In fact, we didn’t pick any BA at all. But the dry and lower-Prädikat wines that we have in the cellar are looking fantastic. Erni concludes that “the 2020 vintage should be a showcase for the typical mineral structure of Mosel Riesling.”
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For more information, contact:
Kirk Wille, Loosen Bros. USA, Ltd.