Its harvest time in Europe
For many vignerons and wine makers across Europe, it is now well into the most crucial time of year. In fact, many have started harvesting weeks ago. The hot, dry and extreme weather conditions in Europe this year have accelerated the ripening in many areas and this could be a worrying trend. Us wine sellers and drinkers don't really fully understand the current changes that are taking place in the vineyards of our favourite wines. Like most people, our connection with the agriculture of wine (and wine making is agriculture, like growing potatoes but sexier) is tenuous at best. We drink the stuff and pontificate about good or bad vintages, criticising wines with a furrowed brow and an air of expertise without really understanding the annual struggle with the climate faced by most vine growers. Growing grapes is hard and climate change is making it harder.
A recent trip to Emilia Romagna in search of lovely Lambrusco and then Tuscany, (Vernaccia Country), was an eye opener. The region of the Colli Bolognesi, usually lush and green was dry and arid. Flavio Restani who has been making wine in the region for nearly 15 years had already started his harvest in early August. He said that every year, it gets harder and more unpredictable.
'We are used to climate shocks like extreme heat, freak hail or late frost, but they used to happen two or three times a decade, now every year something happens. This year, I had sub zero temperatures in early May which killed off some of the buds followed by 40 degree heat in June. We have hardly had rain all year. Luckily, our vines are quite old and have largely coped with the dry weather but it is certainly not normal.'
I remember a conversation with a grower in the Mont Ventoux area a couple of years ago. He said it is now so hot every year that growers are searching out higher ground because on lower slopes, the vines are simply too stressed too often and do not produce. Will vine growing start to simply move up hill or further north? In England, the wine industry has been going from strength to strength with the annual increase in average temperatures. Could we one day actually start to see vines in Yorkshire? Somehow the idea of Cotes du Dales depresses me. It would surely be a sign of a climate with no hope of salvation.
Fortunately this year, not all growers have had it too bad. Down in Provence, at Domaine Milan, they have started the harvest a week late and although they have had extreme heat, they were blessed with a week of rain just before picking and the quality of the fruit is excellent.
However it turns out this year, it is certainly worrying times ahead for the wine making world if climate change continues to heat us up. If it does, I suppose a lack of wine would be the least of our problems.
For now we are ok and still looking forward to tasting the fruits of the 2022 vintage.
Hopefully a new traditional Lambrusco and natural wine from the Roussillon (from 2021) on its way to us.....watch this space.