Prosecco DOC producers have said they are very optimistic about quality as Italy looks set to match France with a substantially bigger wine harvest in 2018.
Many Prosecco producers appeared in a jubilant mood as the first grapes for Italian sparkling wines were picked this week, according to the DOC Consorzio.
A warm summer and a cooling-off period just before harvest, including with some rain, has given Prosecco DOC close to ideal growing conditions, according to the president of the DOC council Stefano Zanette.
Following a warm, dry summer for the most part, ‘the [recent] rain and the lower temperatures were exactly what we had been hoping for’, he said earlier this week.
Picking was due to begin in the last few days of August and ‘UK consumers can expect to get their hands on [the first 2018 wines] at the end of the year,’ he said.
Italy’s 2018 wine harvest was expected to rise by between 10% and 20% versus a 2017 harvest that was one of the lowest in the post-1945 era, according to the country’s farming union, Coldiretti.
With the crucial harvest period still to come for many, Coldiretti’s forecast the harvest at between 46 and 47 million hectolitres for 2018. One hectolitre equals 100 litres.
The country’s winemaker association, Unione Italiana Vini, was more bullish earlier in August but was due to give an update on 4 September.
There has been a similar tale of resurgence in France, which was expecting a 2018 wine harvest around 27% larger than a historically low 2017.
Coldiretti subsequently highlighted that Italy and France were neck-and-neck in a ‘race’ to be crowned the world’s largest wine producer in 2018.
This old rivalry lives on, it seems, despite an increased focus on quality – including yield control and grape selection – among the best winemakers in both countries.
Bad weather, and associated disease, could yet de-rail things, however.
‘Slaughter of Primitivo grapes’
Coldiretti said on 24 August that it was concerned about weather forecasts in several areas.
It added that a particularly bad hailstorm in Taranto province in the south may have cut Primitivo production there by around 60%.
It said there had been a ‘slaughter’ of Primitivo grapes in the area.
Paolo Castelletti, general secretary of Italy’s winemaker association, said that producers across the country have had to work hard during the growing season to deal with intermittent storms and bouts of frost, as well as to prevent issues with mildew in the vines.
According to winenews.it, Piedmont had been hampered by high rainfall and several hailstorms in spring and early summer, but hot weather in June helped vines to recover. Tuscany was expected to see a significant rebound in harvest size versus 2017, albeit some vineyards would still be coping with the effects of frost and drought from the year before.