Germany launches earliest grape harvest yet amid heat wave

LOERZWEILER, Germany (AP) — Germany’s grape harvest is officially underway on its earliest date yet after a scorching summer that has many other farmers groaning but — so far — is promising to be good for vintners.

At a vineyard in Loerzweiler, south of Mainz in southwestern Germany near the Rhine River, workers started plucking white grapes off rows of vines on Monday.

The first grapes go to make Federweisser, a young wine that gives the first clues about the potential quality of a vintage. The main harvest is expected to start in late August or early September.

According to the German Wine Institute, it’s the earliest start yet to the country’s grape harvest. The previous record was Aug. 8, in 2007, 2011 and 2014. Last year, the grapes stayed on the vine until Aug. 16.

“I grew up at a winery around here. I am 52 years old and in these 52 years I have never seen us harvest the first grapes around the first weekend in August,” winegrower Mathias Wolf said.

He’s hopeful that this won’t just be an early year but a good one for wine. But even the sun-loving vines could use at least some rain soon.

“At the moment it’s very good — the quality looks like it will be good, though the next few weeks will be really decisive, whether we get rain or no rain,” he said. “But the conditions are there for a good vintage.”

German Wine Institute spokesman Ernst Buescher said, with the sunny weather, “we have very healthy grapes, which is very positive for the quality of the wine, but we need some rain.”

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