Let’s focus on the vineyards. In the Southern Hemisphere harvest just finished. In Europe, the frost’s impact was really important.

Focus on the Vineyards 2017

Harvests in Southern Hemisphere

After the earthquake of 13-14th of November 2016, New Zealand registered not ideal weather conditions with more rain and cooler temperatures than expected. Winemakers had to choose to wait a few days longer, in order to obtain a full maturity or, to take the risk of waiting too long and lose their yield. According to the report of New Zealand Wines Institute of Marlborough a decrease of 3-4% on the volume should be observed compared to 2016 (436 000 Tons). Even if in some areas this forecast is not definitive yet.

For South Africa, according to VinPro and WOSA the most important challenge was to manage the water, due to dry conditions. The cooler temperatures during the harvest were a perfect combination to give the smaller berries a great quality. Hopefully, the yield is a little bit larger than in 2016 with an increased production up 1.4% compared to 2016, which was 1.42 Million Tons. The Swartland and Paarl region’s crops compensate the smaller ones in Nothern Cape, Klein Karoo and Stellenbosch.

In Australia, a wet winter and spring have slowed the ripening in particular in Southern Australia. Harvest begun 3-4 weeks later than expected, except for the Hunter Valley where the timing followed previous years. Some areas like Western Australia, Riverland, Sunraysia and Tasmania registered hailstorms which reduced a bit the yield. In general, volume will be same or slightly above 2016 (1.81 Million tons). The cool conditions should mean better than average quality.

What about Northern Hemisphere?

An important wave of cold and frost hit Europe just after Easter, knowing that in most countries the growing cycle was about two to three weeks ahead. Damages are still being evaluated and we will have more precise information in the coming weeks.

In France, despite their use of propane burners or even helicopter to protect their vines, damages were reported. Not only in Champagne, Burgundy or Loire Valley, but also in Bordeaux where Pomerol, Blaye ,Saint-Emilion, Moulis or Listrac were the most affected areas. In Rhone Valley and Languedoc Roussillon, some producers for example in Pic-Saint-Loup lost 20% of their production.

In Italy, Piemont, Venetia or Tuscany were subjected to frost and hail storm. The first estimation are respectively: 50% of damages, between 60-80% for Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Glera and Sauvignon parcels in Venetia and 20% in Tuscany which represents a damage of 80 million of euros according to Confagricultura. In Chianti, some producers’ losses are about 90% of the production. A few winemakers hope for a regrowth.

Spain declared also frost damages in Castilla y Leon, such as Ribera del Duero were some peaks of -10° were reported (in Burgos), in Rioja Alta, Bierzo: 80% of the vineyards have been damaged and also in Galicia (except Rias Baixas) where 70% of vineyards have been hit by the severe frost. Winemakers are already trying to save what they can by withdrawing the damages buds, and hoping that drought would not be what happens next.

No frost reported in California but flood levels in Sonoma county were registered, for the Napa River and Russian RiverHopefully it did not cause too much damages, even if it has to be handled with care until the end of spring, in particular in term of disease. With record rains who filled up the soil and a 4 year drought, 2017 should have a great potential.

Even if weather conditions are part of the job, we can wonder insofar as climate changes how the wine industry will adapt to this serious challenge?