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Spain and Portugal begin harvest after ‘difficult’ year

High temperatures in August and September have led to an early harvest across Spain.

Rioja: ‘difficult’ according to some

Scarce rainfall in the same period also means that yields are down for many regions including Rioja and Castilla-La Mancha, by as much as 30% in some cases.

Notable exceptions are the white wine regions Rías Baixas and Rueda, where the crop is expected to match 2010 or far exceed it.

‘[In Rías Baixas] bud-break and flowering were good and there wasn’t much mildew throughout the growing season despite the humidity and heat,’ Eva Mínguez of the Rias Baixas Consejo Regulador said.

Unlike other regions the maximum summer temperatures of around 28˚C were lower than in 2010 and favourable conditions continued through September.

‘We’re expecting a generous crop and fruit quality is also good. We expect to finish the harvest this week with around 40m kg – last year’s crop was 31.5m kg,’ Minguez said.

In Rueda and Toro daytime temperatures were well into the 30s earlier this week and as high as 22˚C at night. ‘This is unusual at this time of the year here,’ said Alejandra Sanz at Rueda’s Sitios de Bodega.

‘We’re seeing dehydration in some bunches but the grapes are generally healthy; we expect the wines from 2011 will have lots of structure and flavour.’

In Rioja the harvest is now underway throughout the region.

At the group La Rioja Alta, winemaker Julio Sáenz described 2011 as ‘a difficult year’ which will be marked by the dry conditions – there has been no rain since the light rain of early September.

‘Yields are lower and bunches are smaller with high concentration, high alcohol and low acidity levels. Very selective picking is required.’

In Portugal’s Duoro, hot and dry conditions were punctuated by a few days of timely rain, according to Paul Symington of Symington Family Estates.

‘We have had the most perfect weather for the last three weeks, since the rain on 21 August and 1 and 2 September.

‘Such well timed rain is rare and even rarer to be followed by such fine weather. By the middle of next week we will have all our best fruit in the wineries and we are confident that we making some exceptional Ports and Douro DOC wines this year.’

Written by Patricia Langton

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