‘Like we’ve gone through a war’ | Disastrous floods in Germany’s Ahr Valley

July 13th, 2021: The German Weather Service (DWD) put out a warning of extreme storms in Rhineland-Palatinate, with rainfall of over 200 litres per square metre in places, “roughly from the Eifel to the Moselle”. Exactly in this area lies the Ahr valley, a wine region known for its red wines made on steep slopes mainly planted with Pinot Noir.

During the night of July 14th to 15th, the water level of the Ahr, a tributary of the Rhine, normally at 0.60 metres, rose to an estimated 7 to 8 metres (the measuring station was destroyed by the flood wave at about 5 metres).

Within minutes, entire streets and houses were flooded – disastrous for anyone who was already asleep, trying to quickly rescue something from the cellar, or trying to get to safety. Buildings and bridges collapsed, people fled to roofs or trees and stayed there for many hours before they could be rescued (including two winegrowers). More than 130 people died in this region alone, hundreds were injured, and thousands were left homeless.

“It looks like there’s been a war in Ahrweiler” writes a friend via WhatsApp, whose parents’ house is a bit higher, so ‘only’ the basement was affected. “Infrastructure broken, no electricity, water, or gas for days.”

Winegrowers on the edge of existence

The winegrowers on the Ahr have also been hit hard. 65 of them are engaged in winegrowing as their main occupation, more than 1000 as a sideline. Only a few have insurance to cover the damage. The damage to stored wine alone is estimated at around 50 million euros. Bottles, barrels and tanks were broken or carried away by the flood. The condition of some of the lower-lying vineyards could not even be assessed yet. Thanks to the steep slopes that the water did not reach, part of the 2021 harvest can probably be saved. However, the machines, equipment and cellars necessary for harvesting and production have largely been destroyed.

The great willingness to help among the winegrowers gives hope. Wineries in other regions are sending staff and equipment or selling solidarity wine packages to donate the proceeds. Winegrowers from neighbouring wine regions, including the Moselle, have promised help with harvesting and vinification.

The Ahr wine region

The Ahr Valley is one of Germany’s smaller wine regions. More than 80% of its 550 hectares are planted with red grapes, thus earning the name “red wine paradise”. The dominant grape variety is Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder, Blauburgunder or Schwarzburgunder in German). Only in second place comes Riesling, which takes up less than 10% of the total area. Across about 40 hectares is cultivated the “Frühburgunder” grape (Pinot Noir Précoce) – a mutation of Spätburgunder that ripens about 2 weeks earlier.

Characteristic of the area are the steep rocky slopes, which were largely made accessible by creating terraces so that they could be cultivated at all. The many hours of sunshine and the soils of slate and sandstone produce exceptionally fine, elegant red wines.

Wine lovers will be delighted by the “Rotweinwanderweg” (Red Wine Trail), a 35 km long path that leads above the Ahr along the wine villages from Altenahr to Bad Bodendorf. Along the way, numerous restaurants and wine taverns invite you to linger over a good glass. A tip to make a note of, combined with the hope that holidays in this extraordinary wine region will soon be possible again.

How wine lovers can help

“Flood wine”

Initiative of the local restaurant “Klebers Küche & Garten” in cooperation with Ahrwein e.V.

Purchase quality wines from the Ahrweiler region that could be saved from the flood. They will be delivered – in memory of the catastrophe – as they were found. https://www.startnext.com/en/flutwein

(For orders from outside Germany, please consider the shipping costs. A parcel up to 5 kg costs 15.99 EUR, up to 10 kg 20.99 EUR)

Flood Surprise Package

Initiative of the winegrowers’ cooperative Mayschoß-Altenahr e.G.

Six rescued and cleaned surprise bottles across the range. Orderable by e-mail to info@wg-mayschoss.de. Payment by bank transfer to the following account:

Volksbank RheinAhrEifel GENODED1BNA, DE19 5776 1591 0550 0821 01, WG Mayschoss- Altenahr, keyword: flood package.

More information: https://www.wg-mayschoss.de/

(For orders from outside Germany, please consider the shipping costs. A parcel up to 5 kg costs 15.99 EUR, up to 10 kg 20.99 EUR)

Donation account

AHR – A wine region needs help for rebuilding e.V. – A non-profit organisation founded for the sole purpose of helping the winegrowers of the Ahr to rebuild.

KSK Ahrweiler

IBAN: DE94 5775 1310 0000 3395 07