The German Wine Institute says it could take weeks to fully assess the impact on the region's vineyards.

By Jelisa Castrodale
July 21, 2021
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In the past year-plus, European winemakers have had to contend with a global pandemic, retaliatory tariffs from an unrelated trade dispute, and a heavy frost that hit surprisingly late in the season. Unfortunately, the challenges keep coming: torrential rains in France have caused "out of control" mildew growth that is threatening vineyards in several of the country's best-known wine regions, while the deadly floods in Germany have destroyed vineyards throughout the Ahr Valley.

According to Wine Spectator, some of the more fortunate vintners have waterlogged cellars and mildew to contend with, while others in more severely flooded regions have been completely devastated. "It's a huge mess. It will take months before you can even think of starting to build up again," one vintner from the less-affected Rheinhessen region said. "They need so much help. Also in the vineyards. The only thing many have left is out on the vines."

A boat on the Ahr river in Rech, Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany
Credit: Christof Stache / Getty Images

Marc Adeneuer from the JJ Adeneuer winery in Ahrweiler called the situation a "disaster." On Tuesday, he said that neither power nor water service had been restored to the region, and that he'd spent five days trying to pump standing water out of his cellar. "There are no bridges over the Ahr river, the streets have been destroyed," he told Decanter. (The flooding was so widespread, a barrel from a vineyard more than nine miles away was carried all the way to JJ Adeneuer.)

According to Wine Enthusiast, Weingut Meyer-Näkel, an acclaimed producer of German pinot noir, was completely destroyed. Winemaking sisters Meike and Dörte Näkel tried to save what they could, but were caught in rising floodwaters. They held onto each other — and held fast to a tree — for more than seven hours as they waited for rescuers to reach them.

The German Wine Institute (DWI) reported that many of the region's 38 wineries were affected by the flooding, losing buildings, machinery, their cellars, and barrels of inventory, adding that it will "likely take weeks" to determine the full extent of the damage.

"Our hearts break for those affected by the flooding in the Ahr, Mosel, and all throughout Germany," Monika Reule, DWI's Managing Director, said in a statement. "Following the weekend flooding, DWI offers our help to the wine industry in the Ahr region. While the devastation is difficult to bear witness to, it's been inspiring and gratifying to see the entire German wine industry — and all of Germany — come together in solidarity to support those affected by the flooding."

At least 196 people died in the flooding — 165 of them in Germany and 31 in Belgium — and several hundred are still missing. "The German language hardly knows any words for the devastation that has been caused here," Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday.