One Tough Global Vintage

What a year 2017 was in the wine world. We have had frosts in Italy, droughts in South America, Portugal and South Africa, fires in Spain and California and mildew and rot in Northern France. Sadly 2017 has gone down globally as the lowest yielding vintage since 1947.

vineyards 2017 drought rain

Drought, vineyards are is desperate need of rain.

I was in Portugal at the backend of 2017. In most regions they were concerned about the lack of water due to the lower than expected rainfall over the past five years. When speaking with David Marques Ferreira from Herdade do Mouchão, he explained that they are experiencing lower yields because the vine shuts down to protect itself from the lack of water. This subsequently means the quantity of grapes able to grow is much lower.

Drought, vineyards are is desperate need of rain.

Hail in the South Of France

As with other Portuguese producers, wine is not the only product they sell at Mouchão. With 10 hectares of cork and olive trees, both these industries are also suffering from the drought. Cork is literally drying up and, according to industry sources, is now growing at a much slower rate.  Once a cork tree is harvested it takes around 9 years to recover and with the consisting drought conditions over the past few years, the cork which drops back is simply not recovering quickly enough. In other words, cork is simply not growing at a rate that keeps up with the global demand. Grape growers are so worried about the lack of yielding grapes, along with the slow recovery of cork, that they have taken to planting Cacti. This is something I saw when driving around the vineyards as much of the landscape has changed from vines to fields of cacti and other draught resisting plants; others have simply replaced the vines with solar panels.

The grapes are drying out on the vines.

The grape are drying out on the vines.

Northern France is also affected.  Despite a good start to the vintage at bud burst, and a warm growing season, rain came in August which led to humidity problems. Subsequently, there was rot which withered the grapes in the vineyard.  I have read of growers who have lost all their crop, but as a region yield is down by 33%. Speaking to Jean Claude, MD of Champagne Joseph Perrier, and if Champagne does not get a good vintage this year some producers will run out of their reserve wines to make non-vintage wine.  As a region, they are truly worried! The same thoughts are echoed in other regions.

Evolution of E.U Wine must harvest (1980-2017) in volume 1000 HL

Evolution of E.U Wine must harvest (1980-2017) in volume 1000 HL

It’s not all bad news!

Some regions seem to be faring better, in particular the cooler climate regions. We are finding that crops are getting riper.  England has been getting a reputation for producing good quality sparkling wines but now the still wines are coming of age.  You saw last year the quality of the Gusbourne Estate wines, but with increased planting we are now seeing more commercial wines come to market at a more competitive price.  Perhaps 2018 will be the year English wines truly come of age.

Also new opportunities will arise. As some regions ‘dry up’ it makes way for other less well known wine areas to come to the fore. This provides us with opportunities to find new wines and styles, which is always a good thing. This makes the next few years of wine buying and tasting really rather exciting.

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