2022 Rheingau, Pfalz and Mittelrhein: Before, During and After the Rain


Site and timing are critical in any vintage, but in the hot and dry summer of 2022, it mattered much more than usual whether your vines were on unforgiving, well-drained, rocky sites or slightly richer soils with just a little more water-holding capacity. Timing also mattered – because if you are in a warmer region like the Pfalz or the south-facing Rheingau, your ideal harvest point coincides with the early September rains. But this is as far as a general assessment can go – as individual sites and philosophies were decisive. In 2022, the wines – mostly Riesling – do not taste of heat; they are not opulent. On the contrary, they often struggled to reach the requisite ripeness and show slender elegance. Nobly sweet wines are a rarity, with just a handful of botrytised wines being made.

The vaulted cellar at Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau, the only part of the building that remains from 1721.


For a region as compact as the Rheingau, the diversity of sites is immense: there is the rocky, exposed and hot Rüdesheimer Berg rising steeply, but there also are flatter, warmer sites of loam, loess and clay and the famous Brunnenlagen like Marcobrunn, Nussbrunnen and Wisselbrunnen, their names referring to their water availability. Then there is the relative distance to the Rhine River, which nowhere else in its course is as wide as here. Altitude also matters with the higher-lying vineyards in Hallgarten, Kiedrich and Rauenthal, benefiting from forest coolness and more water availability. It is thus not easy to sum up this region of 3,200 diverse hectares. In the Rheingau, there certainly are diverging philosophies.

Before and During the Rain

Theresa Breuer of Weingut Georg Breuer in Rüdesheim, usually amongst the first to pick, started harvesting before the rain on 1 September. “Between mid-March and mid-September 2022, we had one rain event, and that was a deluge, so not really helpful,” she said, as the water ran off rather than seeped into the hardened soil. “As of mid-July, we all sensed the suffering of the vineyards. In a way, life was easy because we did not have to spray [the dry weather meant little disease pressure] or trim shoots in the steep slopes as the vines did not really flourish.” By the time they started picking, “we felt we harvested to relieve the vine of its burden. For the first time, the harvest was not made at that point for the grapes but for the good of the vine.” Breuer noted that the Rüdesheimer Berg suffered especially. Harvest was interrupted by the rain and finished in late September, but must weights did not change notably.

Peter Bernhard Kühn at the Peter Jakob Kühn estate in Oestrich-Winkel also started before the rain. During summer, he had cut off fruit from the young vines up to seven years old “to give them more energy for the coming years,” he said. “The estate wines were harvested in good health in late August. We then wanted to start the main harvest on 12 September. All the crew had arrived, and then the rain arrived. Within three days, we had 60 liters of rain*, more than in the three preceding months. This changed the balance of the grapes and delayed ripeness. We had to pre-harvest to avoid burst and split grapes, to give the fruit time to attain a new balance, but this was the game: not to be too late.” Kühn noted that “the wine made from the pre-harvests were sold in bulk, the main harvest started on the 25th of September.”

Theresa Breuer of Weingut Georg Breuer in Rüdesheim in her spacious tasting room.

After the Rain

Stefan Doktor at Schloss Johannisberg waited to harvest until after the rain. He explained his reasoning: “Two thousand twenty-two was brutally dry. It was a viticultural challenge. With a few tiny exceptions, there was not a drop of water from the first of June to the end of August. Everything pointed to a very early harvest, but then the weather changed. We worried about nutrient levels in the grapes. You could see that the vines were lacking something. So, we decided to wait until after the rain.” Doktor made this decision knowing it would mean stringent sorting and loss of yield. They started on 25 September with a negative harvest, cutting out all rotten and split grapes and were again interrupted by rain. “Sugar levels went down because the grapes got water again, and their pre-rain concentration was slightly diluted, but they also gained nutrients,” Doktor said. Philipp Corvers of the Corvers-Kauter estate in Oestrich-Winkel agreed: “The wines picked before the rain had more must weight but less extract, with sharp acid; those picked after had some of the sugar diluted, but you had more ripeness and density.”

Not a Year for Higher Prädikate

Doktor said that the highest Prädikat harvested at Schloss Johannisberg was Spätlese. The weather hampered the botrytis that came: the cool, rainy days stayed, so they decided not to wait any longer for the sun to dry out and further the concentration of botrytised grapes. Kühn in Oestrich-Winkel made a different observation, which illustrates how Riesling had just shut down in the summer. He fully intended to harvest nobly sweet wines: “In 2022, the grapes looked fully botrytised with raisins that could have been selected for Beerenauslese, but as the first juice came off the press, it was 83° Oechsle.” Readers must note that for the Rheingau, 85° Oechsle, or 11.44% potential alcohol by volume, is the ripeness threshold for Spätlese – Beerenauslese requires a minimum must weight of 125° Oechsle. This is how much the metabolic processes within the vines were slowed – and it explains why some in the region felt they needed to chaptalize to make Grosse Gewächse.

Richard Grosche of Weingüter Wegeler also remembers picking Riesling on 7 November, “purple with botrytis,” which only achieved 82° Oechsle. It was a harvest where things were truly turned upside down. Gunter Künstler harvested two Auslesen in the eastern Rheingau on the deeper soils of Hochheim. Mark Barth in Hatteheim picked a Beerenauslese in the Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz on 10 October – but the concentration here came mostly from shriveled rather than botrytised grapes. Corvers-Kauter managed to pick a TBA in the Oestricher Doosberg, while Robert Weil presented breathtaking Spätlesen, Auslesen Beerenauslesen and TBAs, one each from Turmberg and Gräfenberg in Kiedrich. Weil put this squarely down to the excellent drainage of his mica schist soils and the ventilation that comes with the altitude of his sites, which enabled the botrytis to dry out and concentrate by late October. Weil concedes that this took immense effort for tiny quantities but proudly states that this is the 34th vintage in a row where Weil made the full range of Prädikate. Last but not least, the Spreitzer brothers in Oestrich-Winkel picked two Eisweins in 2022 in the Hallgartener Würzgarten on 17 December.

The steep slope of the Bacharacher Hahn vineyard in the Mittelrhein.

A Rheingau Verdict

Theresa Breuer summed up both the year and the philosophies: “There were people who harvested very early, like us. Others waited until really late after the rain. All tried to find a solution. It was a year that challenged us all.” The stylistic spectrum is diverse – as diverse as the vintages presented. The VDP Rheingau decided to release GGs two years after harvest. This meant that some estates showed their 2021s, released in September 2023, while others showed their 2022s, not released for another year. While this delay is great for the wines themselves, it makes tasting and comparing harder – and this report a bit uneven in its coverage. Despite the great diversity of sites and often widely differing philosophies, some 2022s are stunning, while most are good, if slender and with less substance than 2021. Two thousand twenty-two certainly showed that times have changed significantly within a very short period and that new approaches are needed. When Robert Weil, who has made wine since the late 1980s, marvels at “how things used to be,” it is one thing; when Eva Fricke, who founded her estate in 2011, does, it is quite another. I ventured to Stefan Doktor that the people who master all these changes will be the winners. Without a moment’s hesitation, he countered: “No, they will be the survivors.”

The Pfalz Landscape

With 23,721 hectares of vineyard, the Pfalz is Germany’s second-largest growing region after Rheinhessen. Its vineyards lie largely along the east- and southeast-facing slopes of the Haardt mountains. These are the extension of the French Vosges (or vice versa), created by the upheaval of the Upper Rhine Rift 50 to 20 million years ago, resulting just as in Alsace in various geological formations reaching the surface. Triassic limestone, or Muschelkalk in German, and Triassic sandstone, or Buntsandstein, are two prevalent bedrocks, especially in the Mittelhaardt, where some volcanic formations are also present and further south. Slate and granite also crop up but with less frequency. The vineyards of the northern Pfalz are mostly on calcareous loams, and the northernmost have some of Rheinhessen’s Tertiary limestones. The area is large, with half a degree of latitude between the north and south Pfalz vineyards tasted for this report: Dirmstein is at 49.55°N, Schweigen at 49.05°N. Why all of these facts? To explain that no general Pfalz verdict is possible.

Nicola Libelli showing off his stunning range of 2022 Rieslings at Weingut Dr. Bürklin-Wolf in Wachenheim, Pfalz.

Localized Lottery

Two thousand twenty-two was the driest year the Pfalz had ever seen since records began and the second sunniest. Heat and dry stress were thus also the hot topic here, even though it was less of a challenge with richer, loamier soils and loess. Some relief also came with very localized thunderstorms that brought refreshing rain, but heavy rain during harvest was also localized and turned the harvest, especially in the Mittelhaardt, into a huge challenge. It is evident in the wines how well some coped and how much others struggled. It all depended on location in the Pfalz, as precipitation was more devastating in some places than others.

The Nordpfalz – Relatively Unscathed

The Knipsers in Laumersheim knew that their calcareous limestone-based and deeper soils, with their increased water-holding capacity, were a huge advantage in 2022. When the rain came in September, these soils soaked up a lot of it. Some of the grapes that already had soft berry skins, like Pinots Blanc and Gris, split in some places. Riesling fared better. But heat and dry stress took their toll in another way: “According to that gorgeous summer, there should have been 100° of Oechsle [or 13% potential ABV],” Werner Knipser said. “But even in the best sites, we achieved just 90-95° Oechsle [or 12-12.5% potential ABV].” All in all, they fared well, and 2022’s relative slenderness actually suits the usually rounder Pfalz style.

Andreas Rings of Weingut Rings in Freinsheim said, “dryness was the main concern, but we were not thwarted by it,” he reported. “We had a little rain in July, and this relaxed the situation. For us, the challenge was to find a balance between ripeness and freshness. We reduced yields early to relieve the vines. We do so much for the vitality of the vineyards via compost and winter mulch; we were relatively relaxed about dryness. The only thing that suffered were the young vines. We either cut off the fruit completely or sold the grapes from vines that were three to six years old. Older vines weathered the summer well. We finished the Riesling harvest on 24 September, and then the rain came. It was lucky we were finished by then.”

Josef Leitz in front of his new large Fuders installed in his modern winery.

Mittelhaardt – A Rained-On Harvest

Nicola Libelli at Bürklin-Wolf in Wachenheim paints a vivid picture of 2022: “The year actually started well. Sufficient winter rains ensured that until July, things went without a hitch. Now and then, we had thunderstorms and some rain in early July. That was it, followed by seven weeks of dryness. It was not extremely hot. We had temperatures in the mid to high 20s [Celsius] with cool nights. On the last August weekend, we had 5-6 liters* of rain, not much but better than nothing, so we started harvesting at the beginning of September. Then, on 6 September, out of nowhere above Forst, Deidesheim and Wachenheim, we had 70 liters* of rain that came down within two hours. This was the moment we realized we had to hurry. We had small yields, and the weather worsened, but with a big team of 80 people, we were able to finish within three weeks,” Libelli recounted. This is no small feat for 85 hectares. “It was the right decision because, towards the end, things became diluted. The fruit lost its radiance, its energy.” Libelli credited the biodynamic soil management with a buffering effect for both wet and dry weather and is grateful that grapes did not split. His account makes clear that the very heart of the Mittelhaardt took a drumming.

Markus Spindler of Weingut Heinrich Spindler in Forst added that it remained cool once the rain had started, which helped to curb the botrytis threat, but noted that stringent sorting was necessary. He also observed that the vines took their time but, in the end, did react to the rain. While must weights did not change much, aromatic development occurred, especially in the older vines. Libelli and Spindler acquitted themselves very well, Libelli exceptionally well, but others struggled with concentration. I tasted some wines that seemed to lack a middle and some Erste and Grosse Lagen that were really rather short.

Südpfalz: Fortunate Timing

Hansjörg Rebholz or his sons could sleep peacefully in 2022: “The 2022 summer led to almost ideal harvest conditions,” Rebholz remembered. “At the end of June, we had three days of very soft rain, about 90 liters*, so we did not really see any dry stress. The vines came wonderfully through the hot July. It was only in late August that we realized it was dry, but not really stressed.” Son Hans Rebholz added that “yields had been curbed to allow for earlier ripening of acid as well as sugar. In the end, we hit the holy grail in terms of calibration of sugar, acid and aroma.” Hansjörg Rebholz continued: “We started the Pinot harvest in late August in ideal conditions, which lasted until the third week of September, when we also started harvesting Riesling, especially from the old vines. Then the rain started, and the younger Riesling vines had not been harvested yet. We were relaxed because we knew that all the important things were already in the cellar. We did not finish until mid-October; we had to select a lot, bringing in a third less than usual.” The Rebholz wines bear out these statements.

The famously steep vineyards of the Mittelrhein, here with a view of Bacharach on a glorious September day.

Mittelrhein: More of the Same

As always, there is a real difference between the upper Mittelrhein, where the vineyards are in narrow lateral valleys, south-facing but some distance from the mighty Rhine, and those vineyards that are on the river directly. The latter are known to produce bold, juicy wines, but in 2022, dry stress was an issue in such exposed, well-drained sites. But even in the lateral valleys, Jochen Ratzenberger described 2022 as “brutally dry. We had dry years before, but this was different. The old vines did not have a problem, but the younger vines did.” Ratzenberger’s harvest, the earliest ever with a 15 September start, was also interrupted by rain, which spelled botrytis pressure – so selecting was necessary. His neighbor Cecilia Jost of Weingut Toni Jost remembered spending the summer “cutting off grapes and whole canes in the younger vines” to relieve them. Further downstream, on the fully south- and Rhein-facing Bopparder Hamm, Johannes Müller of Weingut Matthias Müller started harvesting on 2 September. His wines, however, have bite simply because he has learned to handle his extreme sites.

Considering the challenges that nature threw at the winemakers in Rheingau, Pfalz and Mittelrhein, most delivered remarkable wines – but the estates reviewed are also among Germany’s best and are not representative of the average. Philipp Corvers of Weingut Corvers-Kauter in the Rheingau called 2022 the “vintage of the future, a harvest for the brave.” He has a point – there will be more years like this dry one, and those still sticking to the conventional methods of yesteryear will lose out. Others will continue to make thrilling wines.

I tasted the wines in this report during estate visits in mid and late August and early September of 2023.

*Readers should note that in metric measurements, one liter of rain per square meter equals one millimeter of rain.

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