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Earliest harvest start on record for Galicia

Published:  29 August, 2017

The usually cool and wet climate of Galicia in the Atlantic reaches of Spain has been turned on its head this year, leaving wine producers to handle one of the earliest, but longest and most peculiar harvests ever recorded.

For many vineyards, it is the first time grape picking has commenced in August, rather than September, with the harvest starting between 20 days and four weeks earlier than usual.

The Association of Galician Winemakers today announced that the harvest was the earliest one recorded in 30 years.

Producers are reporting high quality levels, but varying quantities of grapes from a harvest that has prompted them to suggest that the white wines of this year’s vintage may be less crisp, with a more integrated acidity as well as having a more pronounced aroma profile and potentially greater density.

The picture inland contrasts with production next to the coast, where the Rias Baixas wine board has announced that production will increase by 12% to 37.6 million tonnes of grapes this year.

Having suffered from frost and hail in April, the inland Valdeorras and Monterrei appellations have been hit by drought and high temperatures since May. In these two appellations, there will be a prolonged harvest of two halves, because shoots appeared on vines following the frost of April.

 “We have never started the harvest in August. But this year, producers have started about 20 days early because of the frost and an important drought has accelerated the maturity of the grapes. The cycle of the growing season has not slowed down just before harvest as it usually does, however the grapes are in excellent health and they have been picked before sugar levels get too high,” Luis Miguel, technical director of Galicia’s Monterrei wine board told Harpers.

“Effectively we will have two harvests; not only will this be the earliest harvest but the longest: it is expected to finish in mid-October,” Miguel said.

In Valdeorras, which like Monterrei, has a continental climate, a source from the local wine board said: “We had frost and hail in April and it has not rained since May; we had the usually high summer temperatures: the grapes are smaller in size but the must from the grapes is much more concentrated, so we are expecting lower quantities of production, but a vintage of excellent quality.”

Valdeorras producer Rafael Palacios was unavailable for comment because the sheer intensity of the harvest now underway.

Meanwhile, in the Albariño country of Rias Baixas, on the river inlets near the coast of north west Spain, producer Paco & Lola said it had already picked about 70,000 kilos of grapes.

“We usually start the harvest mid-September, but the climate has accelerated the growing season,” said Diego Garcia, viticulture manager at Paco & Lola.

“In June, we had moderate weather, and we are expecting an increase in production from a vintage of excellent quality that should produce wines with a more integrated acidity, from grapes with a good balance between sugar and acidity levels,” he added.