Ahr winemakers concerned about less vineyards and structural change


The flood disaster in mid-July in the Ahr region hit the local winegrowers hard. A few weeks before the upcoming harvest, most of the 50 or so wine producers were left with nothing. Now the harvest has been successfully brought in from the 562 hectares that make up the fourth smallest wine-growing region in western Germany. Nevertheless, it will take years before the situation returns to normal and the infrastructure in the valley is restored.

Total of 110 million euros damage

Dr Knut Schubert of the Rhineland-Nassau Farmers' and Winegrowers' Association reported to AGRA-EUROPE on November 11th that the total damage that has affected the wine-growing businesses is estimated at around 110 million euros. The damage calculated for each winery ranges from 50,000 to five million euros, with most businesses suffering damage of well over 500,000 euros.

The winegrowers affected by the flood are particularly concerned about the worsening scarcity of land for cultivation in the area. Ten percent of the vineyards were destroyed or badly damaged, amounting to a total loss of around 40 hectares. The partial damage in areas mainly on steep slopes and foothills, which will not be able to produce any yield in the next few years, is about 17 hectares.

"The issue will take a longer period of time until solutions are found," is the assessment given by the district association manager. The background to this is the reclassification of flood plains, which will eliminate several hectares of vineyards in the lowlands. In the future, winegrowing will only be possible to a limited extent and under certain conditions in the adjoining locations. Moreover, possible new designations for replacement areas would be in competition with sites for housing construction and for retention areas as potential flood plains.

Structural change brought forward

Furthermore, land consolidation procedures are necessary in the floodplain in order to be able to operate sensibly in the future. In some districts, the region is particularly characterised by small plots. Of the 50 or so winegrowers who produce their own grapes and the 15 businesses that primarily supply grapes, two will probably go out of business. Some of the grape growers supplying the cooperatives, who had been severely damaged by the flood, are likely to bring forward the closure of their businesses by a few years. This would speed up the structural change.

Very good quality vintage

Despite all the difficulties, this year's grape harvest in the Ahr valley was successfully completed. The wine producers received broad support and assistance from all over Germany. The Ahrwein e.V. regional association supported the winegrowing businesses by coordinating the volunteer (harvest) helpers and fundraising as well as providing organisational support for the newly founded association "AHR - A wine region needs Help for Rebuilding e.V." and the #flutwein project. A central building block to enable the grape harvest was also the emergency aid paid out to the winegrowers from the donations of the foundations and funds of the farmers' associations, which were directly invested and used by the winegrowers.

Varying harvest quantities

The grape harvest itself turned out to be very heterogeneous, depending on the vineyard location. Some winemakers reported significant losses while others, including the cooperatives, were satisfied with the results. According to Schubert, the poor weather conditions this year, the flood disaster and the plant protection measures that were not fully implemented have had a major impact on the harvest volumes.

Overall, he estimates that around 35,000 hectolitres were harvested in the Ahr region. The Ahr vintners are very satisfied with the quality of the grapes harvested. The late summer temperatures had enhanced the vintage, and the winemakers had no problems with the acidity this year. They expect strong, fruit-driven wines. In addition, there are enough grapes to produce one of the region’s specialties, ‘Blanc de Noir’ - the creation of a light wine from red grapes.


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