The plight of Germany's Ahr wine growers. Here's how to help them get back on their feet

Jul 29 2021, 16:18 | by Gambero Rosso
The damage is concentrated in the western region of the Eifel range, particularly in the lush valley of the Ahr river. Here's how to help Germany's wine growers.

According to Germany's National Meteorological Service, two months' worth of rain fell in just 24 hours. The central European regions of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have never experienced so much rain. The death toll from what has been described as the flood of the century is still being counted, and hundreds of missing persons are being sought in the various municipalities affected. The torrential rainfall, which engulfed bridges and roads, caused disruption to public transport and changes to the landscapes, affected also several winegrowing and wine-tourism areas, especially in Germany. The damage is concentrated in the western region of the Eifel range, particularly in the lush valley of the Ahr river, a tributary of the Rhine, where 563 hectares/1391 acres are planted with vines (one of the smallest areas in Germany). Here, the last major flooding occurred in 1910. A sparsely populated area known both for one of its finest wines, Pinot Noir, and for its great ability to withstand challenges and bounce back. With cellars and wine shops flooded and offices swept away by water, fundraising and solidarity campaigns for reconstruction have already begun. Area’s winegrowers are familiar with the consequences of flooding and are used to batten down the hatches. This time, it was the speed and violence of the event that made the difference. The local media collected dozens of testimonies from producers. In the municipality of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in the Rhineland-Palatinate state, Michaela Wolff, who runs Weingut Sonnenberg with her family, spoke of a 'bomb effect' caused by the rains. At the Selbach-Oster winery, flooded by the Moselle, Johannes Selbach and his son Sebastian swam into the barrel cellar to save the production, as reported by Wine Spectator. In general, in many of the affected areas (from Mayschoss to Dernau), there was no way to secure the working machinery and, in addition to the human losses, there are tractors and presses missing. The grapes continue to grow and the vintage will be a ritual to be performed in any case and at any cost, even if – as local newspapers report – few wineries are ready to bring something home in the coming months. In order to get going again as soon as possible, equipment and, above all, labour are needed. Willpower is certainly not lacking. In the meantime, the German Wine Institute is collecting donations and offers of help on its website: –G.A.

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