The Braunewell family has been practicing the ancient art of viticulture in the picturesque hills above the Rhine River since the middle of the 17th century. This year’s grape harvest, at the end of Germany’s second-warmest summer on record, is their earliest ever.
Across Germany, the “Weinlese” is in full swing, and vintners are delighted with what promises to be an excellent year in one of the unique upsides to global warming. For Stefan Braunewell — who runs his family’s vineyard in Essenheim near Mainz with his grandfather, parents and brother — that means gathering the region’s famous Riesling crop four weeks earlier than usual.
“Of course, climate change brings challenges, but these challenges are manageable,” Braunewell said in an interview. “We can’t stick our heads in the sand. It’s nature, and you have to deal with it.”
Changes in weather patterns have been a prominent theme in Germany this year as the country sweltered through the summer months. A sustained drought affected crops so badly that Europe’s second-biggest grains grower is poised to become a net importer for the first time in more than three decades, and the government has promised farmers as much as 340 million euros ($398 million) in aid. Diminishing river levels have hampered barge traffic and threatened to disrupt power generation.