Jürgen Dollase in conversation with Eckhard Roelcke

Endangered houses and vines: the viticulture of the Ahr valley has suffered serious damage. (imago-images / Future Image / Christoph Hardt)

Many winegrowers in the Ahr Valley were severely damaged by the floods two weeks ago. Overview of the importance of the vineyard in the Ahr Valley and the extent of the damage with the support of food critic Jürgen Dollase.

The floods of July 14 and 15 hit hard many winegrowers in the Ahr. Stored barrels and bottles of wine were lost or destroyed, as were vines at lower elevations, as well as machinery and tools. How do you bring the harvest to come on the steep slopes that have been spared and how should things continue in the future? A brief review of the situation with the help of food critic Jürgen Dollase.

What is the particularity of the Ahr vineyard?

The Ahr wine region is one of the smallest in Germany and is known for its fine red wines. Some of this country’s most valuable reds come from the region. And this even if it is in fact too far north.

The mild microclimate of the narrow Ahr valley and the volcanic soils make up for the inconvenience of the location. The region is the largest closed wine-growing area for red wine in Germany. At the same time, it is one of the smallest with around 550 hectares of vines.

The turnover is around 50 million euros per year in the most important wineries, explains food critic Dollase. Wine is produced full time at approximately 65 wineries. Pinot Noir is by far the most important grape.

Direct and indirect consequences of the flood

The vines on the many steep slopes are unaffected, says Dollase. Those of the valley are destroyed and the cellars flooded, barrels and bottles of wine carried away, destroyed or buried in the mud.

Harvesting of the red grape varieties will begin in about eight weeks, but the winegrowers will no longer have machines for them. They are now in the process of organizing support from other wine regions so that they can bring in the harvest at all. Because the winemaking infrastructure is now also lacking.

As a result, wines could become more expensive in the medium term, explains Dollase. He hoped for the solidarity of wine lovers in this development. Solidarity will not be sufficient for small wineries, however, as they will depend in the future on generous structural aid from the state.

An unusual rescue operation

An aid campaign called Flutwein has been launched, where you can order a case of wine for 250 euros, says Dollase. 100 euros of it is a donation. You get a few bottles of wine that no one knows is inside because the labels on those bottles were washed away by the flood.

“A very strange action, but absolutely necessary,” says the food critic. We have to resort to unorthodox means to allow the winegrowers to continue their work.

The fact that some bottles have been left in the mud or in water for a few days has no effect on the quality, explains Dollase: “The corks don’t matter either. They hold up well. I think we can dismiss everything with them, the crying comes. They will surely be good wines too. No nonsense will be sent. “

You will also hear a report from Anke Petermann with us [Audio] About the medium-sized economy damaged by the floods and especially viticulture in the Ahr valley.