German winemakers count cost of last week's "devastating" floods, with many losing entire wineries
German winemakers are counting the cost of the deadly floods that swept the west of the country last week, claiming over 180 lives in the process.
Mayschoss-Altenahr Cooperative, which sits close to the banks of the river Ahr south of Bonn, was founded over 150 years ago and is believed to be one of the oldest such organsations in the world, with over 460 members. After being cut off by floodwaters which left cellars and facilities awash with water and mud, members say the impact on their businesses has been nothing short of “devastating”.
While staff are doing their best to salvage what they can, Alina Sonntag, a management assistant at the cooperative said that the disaster threatened its continued existence. "At the moment I don't think I have any exact idea of how big the scale actually is, I can't give any figures or even dimensions,” she told Euronews. “In any case, it is devastatingly threatening to the existence (of our business),” she said. “The barrels that were still in the cellar, where there was actually wine in them, are probably no longer usable. We're now trying to save what can be saved. It affects our very substance, that's for sure."
She added that many of the cooperative’s members will have lost both their homes as well as their livelihoods in the floods. The village of Mayschoss itself was cut off until a few days ago and could only be supplied by air. As a result, the cooperative has not been able to supply its customers for the past week, and Sonntag said it was now planning to outsource sales to other wine growers in less badly affected regions.
One big headache facing many wineries in the region is the fact that few had insurance to cover them in the event of such a disaster. Weingut Paul Schumacher ‘s winery was completely destroyed by the floods, with all of the winery’s equipment damaged beyond repair. The devastation caused by the flooding was described as both” unprecedented” and “impossible to anticipate” according to owner Paul Schumacher. He told Drinks Business that few wineries had adequate insurance as no one expected the flooding to cause such extensive damage. While his high altiutude vines were spared the worst of the flooding, he doubts he will able to produce any wine from this year’s harvest with no facilities of his own.
Meanwhile in Belgium, wine growers may have escaped the catastrophic damage suffered last week by their German counterparts, but heavy rain could still mean the loss of up to half of this year’s yield, coming on top of problems they were already suffering, due to a cold wet spring.
“We had a lot of rain and the roads to Dinant were flooded. But because our vineyards are on the hillside, they were not flooded,” Jeannette van der Steen, the Dutch owner of the La Bonne Baronne domain on the banks of the Maas, told The Brussels Times.