A turbulent wine year for Rheinhessen
With the first grapes for the Federweißen, the grape harvest in Rheinhessen began this year already in mid-August - and was fitting for the opening of the Hiwweltour Aulheimer Valley in full swing. The varied hiking trails of the tour lead for long stretches through the middle of the vineyards and so one could wonderfully observe how the local winegrowers harvested ripe grapes either by hand or with huge full harvesters.
The harvest began much earlier than usual for winegrowers in Rheinhessen, due to an extremely turbulent weather year. After a mild March, the vines sprouted early. Then, however, the late frost struck and mainly caught young, fresh and juicy shoots. The vines developed fewer grapes than in previous years. Those that came, however, grew well thanks to sun and warmth.
But that was not enough! In the summer, surprising hail and rain floods caused further damage in some parts of Rheinhessen. Finally, it rained heavily once again; high time for the harvest to save the now ripe grapes from the moisture and forestall any rot.
Vintage up close
Despite these difficult conditions, the winegrowers in the wine village of Flonheim, the starting point of the Hiwweltour Aulheimer Tal, took time for their guests. The Winery Dohlmühle for example, regularly invites to covered wagon rides around the Trullo - so also this late summer. We were allowed to accompany the Stütz family quite spontaneously when they were just on the way to their vineyards - for once by minibus and not by covered wagon.
Many sites had already been harvested by this time. They checked the Trollinger grapes with the refractometer, a small device that measures the sugar content of grapes. And indeed: It was high time to harvest the Trollinger as well. The time was to come that very afternoon.
But before that we were allowed to taste the red grapes. Even without a refractometer, we could taste the sweetness and ripeness, they were delicious! Maybe it was because we found ourselves so spontaneously in the vineyard or because we nibbled the grapes with a view of the surrounding Rhine-Hessian hills - they were among the best grapes I have ever eaten.
The Stütz family took a lot of time, explained the harvesting process to us and showed how the vines are then prepared for the winter; the work in the vineyard is far from finished with the harvest. We were allowed to estimate how expensive one of the large full harvesters is (it's in the six-figure range) and then were even allowed to ride a few meters on the step ladder of a full harvester.
The people of Rheinhessen are open, warm and hospitable. This was proven again on this sunny day. On the way back to Flonheim, we stopped at the Trullo. You can't visit the landmark of Rheinhessen often enough. Even though they spend just about every day in the vineyards, the winegrowers of the Dohlmühle always enjoy coming here.
On safari in the vineyards
The Hiwweltour Aulheimer Tal also leads through the vineyards around Lonsheim. Those who have fallen in love with the fantastic views while hiking here - for example on the Lonsheimer Turm or the Oswaldhöhe - can then (or in case of bad weather) set off again in an all-terrain vehicle on Safari go. Yes, a real safari! Although without wild predators, but with lots of delicious wine from their own vineyard.
Winemaker Andreas Mohr took us along and showed us very personal favorite points on the Hiwweltour Aulheimer Tal in his converted open Land Rover - and beautiful places beyond. We drove over hill and dale, through puddles and up narrow, steep hills. It was a great experience, especially with the memory that we were still walking up these elevation changes on the Hiwweltour. At one particularly beautiful spot, we could see across the horizon from the transition into the Rhine Valley to the Frankfurt skyline. What an impressive view!
During the "rolling wine seminar" Andreas Mohr also told us about the difficult weather conditions and the turbo harvest this year. He also explained very clearly what makes his own wines so special. We were then allowed to taste them directly, in the middle of the vineyards. Excellent!
So you see that the grape harvest in Rheinhessen can be experienced in many different ways: While hiking on the Hiwweltour Aulheimer Valley for example, with the winemakers together in their vineyards and even on an extraordinary wine safari. In any case, always an experience!