It's going to be a great year for German wine, following an early and plentiful start to the 2007 grape harvest, the country's winegrowing association said.
The early start to summer have caused an early harvest begin
"We are entering an excellent year," Norbert Weber, the association's president, said in Weisenheim am Berg in the center of the Palatinate winegrowing region south of Frankfurt.
Thursday marked the official start of the grape harvest, with growers hoping the current dry spell will last, so that they can make use of the early ripening this year to lock in all the aromas and flavors the grapes have to offer.
The German Wine Institute (DWI), based in Mainz to the north of Weisenheim am Berg, is predicting a national crop of around 10 million hectoliters (264 million gallons), up 13 percent on last year and 5 percent on the 10-year average.
Earliest recorded harvest
Almost all of Germany's 13 official winegrowing regions are expecting a good harvest
The grapes have ripened 10 days to a fortnight earlier than usual this year. Weber said his 85-year-old father could not recall a start to the harvest as early as this year's.
Must levels -- the level of juice in the pressed grapes -- were considerable higher than in previous years, he said.
Working in the wine growers' favor this year is a relative shortage of wines caused by a spoiled harvest last year following heavy rains.
"After two years of relatively low harvests and at the same time increasing demand for German wines both in and outside the country, our wine growers' cellars are quite bare," said DWI manager, Monika Reule.
Growing German wine market
While not as well known abroad as their French and Italian counterparts, German wines enjoy considerable popularity in their home market, with a market share of just over 50 percent.
Riesling is the most widespread wine in Germany
Exports are growing, however. In the period July 2006 to June 2007, German wine volume exports rose 18 percent on the year, while the value of exports increased by 24 percent.
There some 80,000 winegrowers in Germany, growing as many as 140 different varieties. The country is still primarily grows white wines, although the area planted with red grape varieties has increased by nearly 40 percent in the past 15 years.
Riesling and Müller-Thurgau are the predominant white wines, while Spätburgunder (the German name for Pinot Noir) and Dornfelder are the main reds.