Rolling update: Wineries make harvest predictions

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As September looms, the wine industry in the northern hemisphere is keeping an anxious eye on its crops, with many having experienced unusual weather conditions earlier this year.


We will be running a rolling harvest update from across the globe as winemakers fill us in with what’s happening in their vineyards.


In France, Chablis producers have recently predicted a smaller than average harvest, with yields down by about 20%.


Meanwhile, producers in California’s Napa Valley, predicted its 2012 harvest would be “one of the most balanced in years” thanks to “marvellous weather”.

2.15pm, Thursday August 30, 2012:

At Sicily’s Cantine Settesoli, winemaker Owen Bird, said: “Extreme heat means we are over 20% down on Chardonnay.

“At the same time, quality is very pleasing. No rot to speak of. The grapes have been the best I have seen in Sicily and we have fruit packed Nero d’avola coming in and I’m really happy with the Shiraz. It’s a real year for Viognier as well.

He added that night harvesting has really been “a quality saviour” – grapes are being picked before first thing in the morning before the temperature hits 30C, while daytime harvesting is reservce for lesser-quality fruit in smaller volumes.


“The decision seen as crazy by others to start on August 3 has paid off. The Pinot Grigio is great and is really uniform in quality showing total varietal notes. Bringing the Sauvignon before it hit 11% has given us excellent results.

“We are into the reds and Merlot behind us thankfully.”


12.45pm, Wednesday August 29, 2012:


Christopher Graf from the Von Buhl estate in Pfalz, Germany, reported a “cool spring and early summer,” with picking expected to take place around the middle of October.


In the vineyard “everything is very healthy”, Graf said, adding that “2012 is very good with no hail”, although frosts were a concern in May.


The region used helicopters to generate air currants that would prevent the frost descending, which meant the frosts were “not as bad as in 2011” when 10 hectares of vineyard were lost, according to Graf.


12.40pm, Wednesday August 29, 2012:


In Portugal it has been a  slightly milder than average summer which has resulted in the slower maturation of grapes, and it has experienced more rain than usual in some wine producing regions.


“Whilst it is still too early to be able to give more information of the harvest, we are starting to be able to assess the predicted quality of the grapes in the main wine regions that we are operating in,” said João Portugal Ramos managing director of J. P Ramos Wines, Portugal.



He reports in Alentejo, there has been a slight decrease in quantity, but good quality is still expected with smaller berries than usual, with harvest expected to start around two to three weeks later than usual.



In Tejo smaller berries are also expected to be of high quality with harvest later by about 10-15 days. In contrast to the Alentejo however there is an increase expected in terms of quantity.



Ramos added it is expecting to see a slight increase in the quantity of grapes in the Douro with the harvest commencing two weeks later than usual and in Vinho Verde it is expecting a much smaller harvest than usual due to the amount of rain and low temperatures during the flowering period, but with very good fruit.



“We are very excited about the potential of this years harvest, which will become clearer once we start picking,” he said.



11.20am, Wednesday August 29, 2012:


It looks like Italian vineyards are starting the harvest process early, thanks to hot weather. Caroline Herbert, marketing manager for Martini sparkling wines and Noilly Prat, said: “Today we start harvesting the Moscato Bianco grapes for Martini Asti. This is much earlier than expected due to some very hot weather out in Italy.


“Franco Brezza, our winemaker, says he will be going on holiday in July next year as August is becoming increasingly difficult and he has had to begin organising everything this year from his Blackberry. I am also told that they have begun harvesting in the Prosecco region.”


11am, Wednesday August 29, 2012:


Elsewhere in France, Paul Fabre, director of the Interprofession des Vins du Sud-Ouest (IVSO) told Harpers: “The vineyards of the south west of France experienced cold weather up until spring, which started late this year. However, in the end the weather conditions turned out to be ideal.


“Over the spring and summer months the producers experienced fresh nights and sunny days which are ideal conditions for the grapes to develop the best aromas.


“Harvest is planned to fall at the expected and usual time period of between 10 and 15 September as a starting date. We are expecting the normal volume of crops and a good quality vintage.”


Noel Bougrier, president of Loire’s Famille Bougrier estate, said that while it was still early to predict, he expected “good quality throughout the region”.


“The start of the year in the Loire Valley from Sancerre across to Muscadet, was very wet and there were various ongoing weather problems (such as winter freezing, hail, etc). The results of this are that today we are anticipating a lower volume than usual, and differences in grape maturity from vineyard to vineyard, particularly in Muscadet.


“Climatic conditions throughout August have however been very beneficial with a lot of dryness, and high temperatures which will help round out these vineyard differences to a certain extent and aid ripening.


“One thing is sure - we are looking at harvesting at the earliest around mid-September in Muscadet, perhaps extending into mid-October if the weather remains dry. We are currently witnessing a slower than average biological cycle in the vines, so we will need to give the grapes time to reach full phenolic maturity. And in fact, in the Loire crops have always been excellent when the harvest has been a little later than the norm.”

Get in touch and let us know how your harvest is shaping up in your area. It would be good to find out the size, quality, expected harvest dates, unexpected weather conditions or any disease pressures you’re experiencing. Email Gemma McKenna and we’ll include as part of our rolling harvest update, or tweet us @harperswine.

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