Small harvests expected across Europe as California eyes price rises

  • Tuesday 4 September 2012

Wine producers across the northern hemisphere are beginning their grape harvest, with many expecting a much smaller crop, and some seeking comfort in optimistic predictions of quality.

italy harvest

Dolcetto harvest: 'jeopardised'

In California, consumer wine bargains are drying up as grape supplies are set to remain tight, despite forecasts of a bigger harvest in 2012.

California's 2012 wine grape crop is predicted to be 3.7m tonnes, up 9% on last year, according to official figures.

While a bigger harvest would relieve some supply pressure on the state's wineries, it is not likely to be enough to stop the price of wine on the shelf going up.

'Consumers had been finding pretty good value at lower prices, but I think that may become harder to find,' Rabobank analyst Stephen Rannekleiv told Decanter.com.

'With the downturn, many wineries had excess stocks of high quality wine and some of that was going into their lower-priced lines that were selling better.'

In quality terms, good summer weather means there are promising signs for much of California's growing areas. Elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, the picture is mixed.

France faces its lowest harvest since 1991. There is a dampened mood in Burgundy, but a more upbeat tone in Bordeaux. 'The quality is significantly superior to that of 2011 and the early signs are for quite reasonable yields,' said Martin Krajewski, of Château de Sours in Entre-deux-Mers, following the group's first Merlot grape picking session.

Italy is preparing for its second smallest wine grape harvest since 1950, according to the Association of Italian Oenologists. It forecast the country's crop at 41.2m hectolitres, down 3.5% on 2011.

Drought-like conditions in mid and southern Italy are largely to blame. Luca Saladini, of Brunello di Montalcino producer Tenuta Friggiali, told Decanter.com that vines were 'stressed' after no rain between the end of May and the end of August.

'Sangiovese grapes are expected to be very concentrated due to the general lack of water, rich in tanins and colour [and] with high potential alcohol,' Saladini said.

Up in Piedmont, a weekend of cooler, unsettled weather has 'jeopardised the Dolcetto harvest for sure,' said David Berry Green, of Berry Bros & Rudd.

'For all important Nebbiolo, after the three months of hot, sultry weather, preceded by a cool spring, this cooling off could in fact be a positive development for the Barolo and Barbaresco harvests, so still all to play for,' he added.

Of Portugal's top three regions, only the Douro grape harvest is tipped to grow on 2011, with expected falls in Dão and Alentejo.

'In Vinho Verde, we are expecting a much smaller harvest than usual due to the amount of rain this year and the low temperatures during the flowering period,' said João Ramos, MD of JP Ramos Wines.

Germany's wine harvest is likely to equal 2011, at 9m hectolitres. 'Germany’s winemakers are confident of a good grape harvest,' said a German Wine Institute spokesperson. 'Moderate temperatures during 2012 enabled a consistent ripening of grapes,' he told Decanter.com.

[pic: © Cephas]


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