Vintage Report 2008 · Vintage Report 2009

2009 – Low yields, exciting wines
Klaus-Peter Keller, Weingut Keller, Flörsheim-Dalsheim

After a cool and wet beginning of the year (with true winter temperatures) – April showed – quite in contrast to 2008 – its sunny side with temperatures up to 30° [86 Fahrenheit].

Hence budbreak was nearly three weeks earlier than the long-time average and from the very beginning we had to hurry up with the vineyard work.

Those who were expecting an overly early flowering were wrong. Due to the rather unfavorable conditions (rain, cool temperatures) end of May/ begin June the flowering went very slowly and we got a lot of coulure (Verrieselung) i.e. a lot of small berries [a.k.a. "shot berries"] and loose bunches esp. in the Riesling, Rieslaner and Pinot vineyards.

Those small berries have the best ratio of skin to juice – and often end to be the top quality one is looking for in each vintage.

The further development in June and July can be considered as very normal – cooler and warmer periods with enough rain caused a somewhat higher Peronospora [a.k.a. "powedery" or "downy mildew"] pressure in the vineyards which was not a problem in the end.

Veraison – the point of development when the berries start to become softer- was in the end not much earlier than in the 08 vintage. (10th of August for Riesling in 2009 – 9th of August in 2008)

A lot of sad faces could be seen in Germany in August – those who planned their holidays in this month had a mixture of sun and rain and rather cool temperatures.

Happily,the summer came again in September and we had perfect conditions to harvest our Pinots in Bürgel and Frauenberg. We started to pick BÜRGEL the 28th of September with 99° Oechsle (12,9 Pot. Alc) and acidity of 8,5 g/l. Only two days later we harvested the higher up the slope lying Frauenberg Pinot as phenolic ripeness and pH were perfect. After 15 days maceration with natural yeasts the wine is now in barrel and we like the finesse and elegance in this Pinot Noir.

The only sad news is that instead of 20 barrels we have only 15 barrels of Pinot Noir in 2009.

The Riesling grapes, too, showed good phenolic ripeness and acidity quite early. Its not always the case that one can enjoy eating Riesling grapes' at end of September already.

But in my opinion patience was extremely important in 2009. From the point of view of pure analysis not that much changed in the weeks to come but the flavor structure in the grapes improved a lot.

It was a real problem in 2009 to explain to the picking team (who wants to work as many hours as possible to earn money) why we were not picking when the weather was perfect.

We even found time to make an excursion to our colleagues from the Nahe Tim Fröhlich and Helmut Dönnhoff who both welcomed us with a broad grin on their face(and poured so many wines that we nearly had to stay overnight). [So this is what it's really like during harvest. I seem to have been misled by grim tales over the years – and here it turns out the truth is more of a fairy story! – D.E.S.]

We finished harvesting our Silvaner and Pinot Blanc in the first week of October and started to pick the first Riesling vineyards the 10th October with must weights around 91° and acidity of 10gr/l. The grapes were very healthy – only a few berries started to shrivel – often without botrytis fungus on them.

The second half of October the grapes enjoyed ideal refrigerator temperatures – very cold nights( even frost) and moderate warm days were perfect for the development of finesseful phenolics and ripe acidic structure. An enormous improvement of flavor in the grape could be observed when we started to harvest our best sides Kirchspiel, Pettenthal, AbtsE, Hubacker and Morstein from the end of October to the 3rd of November.

Yields for Riesling are also 20% down in 2009 varying from 1,5 tons for the G- Max to 4 tons in the Kirchspiel and Pettenthal. Grape quality in all of the vineyards was extraordinary and my grandfather who is now 84 told me (and I fear I have to believe him) that I will not see this quality of grapes very often again.

End of October / beginning November it was also time to attend to the sweet wines, as the healthy shriveled and botrytised grapes had dried out beautifully over the previous weeks. Hence several Riesling Tbas with must weights up to 240° Oechsle and acidity of 12-15 g/l could be selected.

I started with the really good '01 vintage after my studies here in the winery and 2009 is definitively the best botrytis I've seen so far. The combination of healthy shriveled and purely botrytised grapes gives an impression of “power without weight” to the young fermenting wines. The acidity is more than sufficient and even enhances the cool mineral character of the wines.

2009 will be a drinking (and not only a tasting) vintage and that’s a fact that makes me not only as a winemaker but as a wine lover very happy. Thanks to my family, our apprentices and the picking team (who had to be so patient in 2009)! Without their help it would not have been possible to get all this quality in the cellar.