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Italian & Spanish wine harvests 2023: Crops to plunge to six-year lows

Official and industry harvest forecasts indicate Italy and Spain will produce some of their smallest wine crops of recent years, after extreme weather impacted major production regions.

Italy and Spain will produce their smallest vintages in six years in 2023, with winemakers in both countries suffering extreme weather that decimated grape harvests, according to official forecasts and industry groups.

Wine production in Italy is estimated to slide 12% to 43.9 million hectolitres, agricultural markets institute Ismea said in a report with two industry groups on Tuesday. An unusually rainy start to the growing season caused an outbreak of downy mildew that left many vineyards in the centre and south of the country with ‘no chance’, the report said.

In Spain, the main wine regions suffered from extreme drought and heat, and hot August weather hurt early grape varieties including Tempranillo in particular, industry group Cooperativas Agro-Alimentarias Castilla-La Mancha said on Wednesday. Spanish wine production is forecast to fall 20% to about 33 million hectolitres.

Lower production in Italy and Spain and a 2% drop in French wine volumes may help ease a glut that has prompted the EU to allow crisis distillation of surplus wine. European winemakers are dealing with a drop in consumption on the back of inflation, and ample supplies after a good 2022 harvest and a build-up of stocks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘The picture is for more moderate global wine availability than in previous campaigns,’ Cooperativas said in its report.

The setbacks in Italy and Spain may lower the EU wine harvest by 13m hectolitres in 2023, according to Cooperativas. With a southern hemisphere production drop of around 7m hectolitres, and crisis distillation in some European countries, that might allow for prices to recover, the group said.

Italian winemakers suffered the effects of climate change, with late spring and early summer bringing floods, hailstorms and drought, according to Assoenologi, the country’s association of oenologists, which contributed to the national production forecast. Unusually heavy rainfall in the centre and south allowed downy mildew to flourish.

In the central Italian region of Abruzzo, known for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines, volumes are forecast to slide 40% to 1.85 million hectolitres. Production in Tuscany may fall 20% to 1.87m hectolitres, while output is expected to drop 25% in the southern region of Puglia and 30% in Sicily.

That stands in contrast to Italy’s northern regions, which mostly escaped damage. In Piedmont, home to Barolo and Barbaresco wines, production is forecast to fall 2% to 2.68m hectolitres, while the volume of wine from the Veneto region will rise 5% to 13.2 million hectolitres.

The reduced harvest will still allow for production of quality wine ‘with peaks of excellence’, according to Riccardo Cotarella, the head of Assoenologi.

‘Much will depend on the work, starting with that of the oenologists, in the vineyard and the cellar,’ Cotarella said. ‘It’s precisely in such strange years that all technical and scientific knowledge has to be applied to mitigate the damage of an increasingly crazy climate.’

Spain, Europe’s third-largest wine producer after France and Italy, had its own share of extreme weather. The country registered its warmest and second-driest spring on record, and the hottest month of August, according to weather office Aemet.

Drought and high temperatures throughout the grape-growing cycle hurt vineyards in Castilla-La Mancha, Spain’s largest production region, according to Cooperativas. The region’s wine volume is forecast to fall 22% to 17.8 million hectolitres in 2023.

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