Description of the vintage
Winter 2014/2015 started with a lot of rain and mild temperatures. Like the previous winter, there were only 10 days (or nights!) with temperatures down to -5°C yet not many more below this. As usual, February and March were very dry and in May and early June we enjoyed some fair weather but also some decent rainfalls. Luckily! At the time we complained, but now we realize how important they were.
The flowering started in the Jebsal (usually the most precocious vineyard) on the 22nd of May and finished for most vineyards early June. Unfortunately, high temperatures during flowering caused significant coulure and millerandage for most grape varieties, especially, to our surprise, for Riesling. Nevertheless, the crop size looked promising and we were heading for a normal vintage.
From the middle of June, temperatures raised significantly, peaking early July at 38/39°C for many days. Too many days! The absence of rain and extreme heat caused hydric stress problems which resulted in many burned leaves and grapes. In fact, there was more damage from the sun rays than the drought. It wasn’t rare to see vineyards early August with as much as 50% leaves loss. Berries remained very small and didn’t reach normal size, impacting eventually the crop size. From the end of July to end of August, some rare rainfalls, intense in certain areas, brought some life back in the vineyards. These isolated rainstorms explain the heterogeneity across Alsace; on average, Colmar was the by far the driest sector and didn’t get as much rainfall as the southern part of Alsace (Rangen) or the north. To illustrate the erratic distribution of rain, on the 14th of August, it rained 9mm in the Herrenweg and 43mm in the Clos Häuserer vineyards which are only 2km apart! The vines started to breathe and became green again. Young vines, vines with exaggerated crops and those located on very poor soils suffered the most. For a lot of them, the rainfalls were too late.
With such climatic conditions, one could think that there was less disease problems. Mildiou (downy mildew) and botrytis were non present, but Oïdium (powdery mildew) was very aggressive in July, forcing growers to use in certain cases high quantities of sulfur, which in turn would increase sunburn problems!
After a cooler second half of August, temperatures were high again early September. Despite a normal rainfall for a 12 month period for the 2015 vintage, there was clearly a severe water deficiency for at least 6 weeks. Harvest started on the 2nd of September and finished on the 1st of October, but 80% of our vineyards were harvested before September 16th. I firmly believe that it was possible to harvest early September as the grapes were physiologically ripe and showed nice acidities, lower pH and very low malic acid. The mid-August rains provoked a fast and homogenous change of colour. Sugar content climbed extremely fast and surprised many people in Alsace. It was important to be ready to harvest early in order not to avoid excessive ripeness. On the 16th of September there was significant rain (18mm in Turckheim). It was precisely forecasted and we decided to harvest almost all our vineyards before with the exception of the Gewurztraminer grape. The lower yields and healthy crop made it possible to advance quickly. So for example, we harvested the whole Rangen in one (big) day! Harvesters will remember that day for a long time…
After this episode, there was a succession of a few nice days and also small rainy periods but the sugar content continued to climb very quickly, but more importantly, the acidities dropped just as fast.
Thanks to earlier harvest, we are very satisfied with the level of acidities in the 2015 wines, especially the Riesling that boast low pH and perfect ripeness. It is clear that the improvement of the soils, due to bio-dynamic farming, has helped us tremendously to reduce acid combinations and obtain better balance in the wines. Fermentations are quite slow for the Riesling wines, especially those originating from limestone with higher acid levels. The wines from 2015 show an unmistakable aromatic intensity and length. Now that all the wines are bottled, they show great balance and harmony but also have a very interesting tannic structure. 2015 shows the potential of the really great vineyards that have acquired excellent ageing potential. 2015 has produced some very exciting wines! Our production in 2015 was 31hl/ha in the Grand Cru vineyards and 44hl/ha for Alsace.