California’s early 2013 harvest looking to be a good vintage

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While the European 2013 harvest is several weeks behind schedule, California’s 2013 harvest, which began on August 1 for sparkling wines produced in the region, is ahead of schedule and looking to be of a good quality and quantity.

In most regions in France, like Bordeaux and Burgundy, the 2013 harvest is not expected to start until late September due to an abnormally cool spring and a late start to summer.  With the exceptions of this year and last year, California’s recent harvests have faced similar challenges that their European counterparts face today, including below average temperatures in the summer and slow ripening fruit.

“We’re a full month ahead of 2009, ‘10 and ‘11,” said Jon Ruel, COO at Trefethen Vineyards and president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

Temperatures across the region have not been this warm since 1997, which is consider by many to be a highly regarded vintage in Napa Valley, the most famous wine producing region in California. 

The 2012 was the largest harvest on record for California, with over 4.38 billion tonnes harvested, according to the California Grape Crush Report. The region’s crop was worth US$3.2 billion on the vine, which created more than US$34 billion worth of wine, reported San Jose Mercury News, a local news agency.

“Everything is moving at a faster pace,” said Silacci, of Opus One, the cellar founded in 1979 by the Rothschilds of France and Robert Mondavi, one of the first ultra-premium wine brands in the United States.

The size of the 2013 crop is relatively large for California, which is needed in a warmer-than-average temperature year, with low yields and hot temperatures, growers can run the risk of having excessive amounts of sugar and tannins with less complexity because a lack of “hang time” on the vine.   If the fruit ripens too quickly and has to be picked, to prevent an over ripened fruit characteristic, the tannins that help to provide structure to wine don’t have enough time to fully develop.

Lodi, an appellation in California known for producing premium Zinfandels, experienced excessive heat waves over this summer with temperatures hitting over 37 Celsius for multiple days in a row.

“I need as much time in the vineyard as we can get to get the great flavours,” said Layne Montgomery, a wine producer in Lodi. “It’s a little worrisome that things are looking so early.”

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