The Minister of Agriculture Priska Hinz (Die Grünen), who is responsible for viticulture in Hesse, is satisfied that organic viticulture is becoming increasingly popular.

On the occasion of the 66th Rheingau Wine Growing Week, Hinz said that more than 800 vineyards are now being cultivated organically.

That corresponds to more than 20 percent of the Hessian vineyard area - and other large winegrowing companies have initiated the move away from conventional cultivation.

Oliver Bock

Correspondent for the Rhein-Main-Zeitung for the Rheingau-Taunus district and for Wiesbaden.

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Hinz warned the Rheingau winegrowers to find "workable compromises" with the difficult and controversial detailed rules for the classification and designation of top wines.

The Rheingau should not wait any longer, but must live up to its responsibility in the further development of wine designation law.

Hinz was also open to serious changes in the state wine and sparkling wine awards so that more winegrowers decide to participate.

In addition, the trade fair character of the Wiesbaden "WiWein" must be strengthened.

Hinz announced targets to reduce the use of pesticides by 30 percent by 2030.

She supports the EU "in principle" in this regard, but the present draft EU regulation must be "urgently revised".

This was followed by Winegrowing President Peter Seyffardt, who otherwise fears a “professional ban” for winegrowers on around 900 hectares of vineyards.

According to Seyffardt, last autumn's expected harvest volume was exceeded at 73 hectoliters.

That is around four liters more than the average for the years 2012 to 2021. There were severe yield losses on very dry locations.

The high average yield is put into perspective in that the range of harvested quantities varies greatly from 15 to 130 hectoliters per hectare.

Better grape harvest than last year

According to Seyffardt, it was remarkable that the must weights before the harvest did not increase steadily, despite the heat and sun, but stagnated between 80 and 85 degrees Öchsle.

Therefore, enrichment - the addition of sugar before fermentation to increase the alcohol - was necessary.

It was “usually” possible to dispense with acidification of the wine musts.

According to Seyffardt, despite the difficult environmental conditions caused by late frosts, heavy rain and dry periods, there was a better wine harvest across Europe than in the previous year.

In France in particular, the harvest increased by 18 percent, while Spain recorded a slump of six percent.

Seyffardt agreed with his colleagues that climate change would increase the drought periods "both in duration and intensity" and that there would be less precipitation and more drought stress in the vineyards in summer.

More frequent heavy rain will favor erosion in the vineyards.

Because the harvest always begins earlier in the year, the must has to be processed faster than when harvesting in cooler October.

There are also new "pathogens" such as bacteria, viruses and fungi as well as previously unknown pests.

Turning away during cultivation is not necessary

For Seyffardt, water management is the key issue for future viticulture.

In the future, rainfall should be held back in the vineyards as far as possible by creating seepage troughs and transverse terraces.

Industrial water must be made increasingly usable by building cisterns and retention basins.

Irrigation systems are also important.

Seyffardt sees the danger that climate change could endanger the characteristics of the Rheingau's leading variety Riesling in the long term.

However, there is no need to turn away from cultivation.

Rather, the grape variety, which grows on 80 percent of the 3,200 hectares of vineyards, shows its potential in years with extreme weather.

Riesling continues to be a unique selling point in the region and can cope with climate change.

He still finds good conditions and a home in the Rheingau.

It is true that fungus-resistant grape varieties "are becoming more and more interesting as additions to the range" and enjoy greater acceptance among consumers.

However, they cannot guarantee that the winegrower can completely do without plant protection measures.