|KELLER · DER JAHRGANG 2008|
Keller's 2008 vintage
Plant growth was now really quite slow and gave us time to have a brief look at our recently planted vineyard in Kristiansand, Norway, which was also growing very well.
Veraison – the point of development when the berries start to become softer – was nearly three weeks ahead and at this stage we were planning to start harvesting the Pinot in mid September and the Riesling at the end of September. But nature is the boss, with its own rules.
The cooler temperatures at the end of August and early September continued to slow down the development of the grapes and we could not think of starting to harvest. Thus we carefully removed some leaves in the grape zone of the canopy as the constant rainfall may have caused botrytis infection. But in contrast to the 2006 vintage, for example, the temperatures in 2008 were too low and the grapes still not ripe enough (hence thicker skins) to be heavily infected by the botrytis fungus. We had to sort out some botrytis on unripe grapes, which we did not use for winemaking - and after this first trie négative [removal of unwanted grapes] almost no further botrytis developed over the next two months on the Riesling grapes (though Rieslaner and Scheurebe showed very good botrytis as early as mid October and some nice TBA with over 200° Oechsle [c 26 potential alcohol!] and acidity of 14-16 g/l could be harvested).
Mid September the acidity was still quite high and due to the cool temperatures went down only slowly – so the main harvest was further delayed.
When we started to havest the Pinot Noir in the Bürgel vineyard on 27 Sep, must weight and acidity were close to that of the 1996 vintage (must weight around 98 °Oechsle [c 12.7 potential alcohol] and acidity of 9 g/l, which will go down to around 5.5 g/l after malolactic fermentation). The Frauenberg Pinot Noir that lies far higher up the slope was picked 12–15 Oct: perfectly healthy grapes with ripe acidity and pure flavours.
Now that the Pinot is already in the barrels, I can say that we are very satisfied with the quality. We have one barrel fewer than in 2007 (21 instead of 22) and the young wines show beautiful cherry and cassis flavours and chalky minerality. Acidity is still quite present but I do not have the feeling that it is unbalanced.
The pre-harvest Riesling [early picking to reduce the yields a little - the grapes go into the Estate Riesling] started in October with must weights of around 85 °Oechsle (c 11 potential alcohol), which was far lower than in the three preceding vintages. Only in vineyards that were kept properly and reduced in yield was quality possible – this was already very clear at the beginning of October.
It’s definitively the year of the warmer sites (I do not say better sites as this can change with the next hot vintage; for me it is the soil not the exposition that makes a great site) and of the winemakers who invested a lot of time in their vineyards during the growing season.
Happily, October was a very good month (though it was 1 °C cooler than the average) especially for the Riesling grapes. With only 12 mm of rainfall (we were far below average, which is 50 mm) and daytime temperatures of around 10–15 °C, this period was very important for the physiological ripening process of the Riesling grapes.
The harvest of the Grand Cru (Grosses Gewächs) sites Kirchspiel, Hubacker, Morstein, AbtsE and the G-Max parcel lasted until 20 Nov. Average yield was around 30-35 hl/ha – a little bit lower than in 2007. So I can say that perfect ripeness came – but very late. After vintages such as 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007, where one had to avoid overripness, 2008 showed the complete opposite. That’s one of the reasons why I love my work so much - you never know what will come the next year.
One important question: What will the Rieslings taste like? Some musts are just starting fermentation so it’s very early to give precise statements but I really like the lively acidity, the purity and the minerality in the wines.
It’s quite different from the 2007 vintage but I would not consider it lesser. There is good concentration and very good extract in the wines. Except for dry Riesling, this will also be a very good year for Kabinett and Spätlese qualities (but only if picked late – the earlier picked ones might be green and hard in acidity).
All in all, top quality was only possible with patience...
Thanks to everybody who made such good qualities possible - without our extremly motivated picking and selecting team (and the great cooking during the harvest by Julia and Eva) this would not have been possible.
Klaus Peter Keller