German winegrowers harvesting early due to heatwave

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LOERZWEILER, Germany (Reuters) - While many German farmers fret about the sweltering heat which has damaged their crop, wine growers are harvesting early thanks to the hot and dry weather.

Mathias Wolf, who manages a vineyard in Loerzweiler - around 40 kilometers southwest of Frankfurt - said the grape harvest was about two weeks ahead of schedule this year and Federweisser, or very young wine, would hit shops by Friday.

“Basically, we expect other wines (that need longer fermentation) to be as good (as Federweisser),” Wolf told Reuters. “They will also be harvested earlier. And we can also expect a very high quality from our other wines.”

Ingo Steitz, president of the wine growers’ association in the Rheinhessen region, said average yearly temperatures appear to be getting higher but noted there had also been a very hot and dry year in 1976.

“So it doesn’t mean that it happens now more and more often,” he said. “Maybe next year has a very cool and wet summer. We just have to wait and see.”

The hottest July since 1881 has damaged Germany’s wheat crop, which is expected to slump about 25 percent on the year, the German farmers’ union said last week.

Unusual weather patterns are affecting Europe’s winemakers in different ways this year. In May, violent hailstorms ravaged parts of the Bordeaux and Cognac wine regions of southwest France, destroying thousands of hectares of vines.

Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Susan Fenton