The 2017 vintage has been a series of ups and downs for winemakers all over the world. Early this year, most European countries were confronted with threatening and dangerous weather. Hail and frost are both quite dangerous for grapes, especially early on in the season.
France: Hot & Cold
Cold temperatures and hail in April devastated many wine growers in France. After an assessment of damage was done, the 2017 vintage was expected to be lower than the 5 year average by 16%. Many estates employed drastic measures to keep temperatures from falling, but most vineyards were affected in some way.
Luckily, the flowering phase went well and grapes were ahead of the average growing season by two or three weeks in some regions. Some early-budding grapes suffered, while some regions were right on schedule. As summer progressed, concerns about water levels began to rise.
Several vineyards in France started their harvest in mid-August. With grapes that are 10 days ahead of their usual maturation dates, producers like Jean-Charles Abbatucci had to act fast. The sunniest parts of the 19 hectare vineyard had grapes that weren’t far from being burned.
Napa: Right on track
In early August producers in Napa Valley began harvesting for the 2017 season. Some of the first grapes to be harvested were Pinot noir used for sparkling wines. Duckhorn vineyards began picking some of their in early August as well. In comparison to the two previous vintages, 2017 has developed at a mostly normal rate. Harvest took place one week earlier in 2016 and 2 weeks earlier in 2015 for certain wine growers.
Italy: Harvest Heatwaves
Italy was victim to a heat wave earlier this year, named Lucifer. Nebbiolo means “wine of the fog”, because it is harvested in November. Unfortunately, with hotter temperatures all over the world this is no longer the case. As temperatures rise, harvest is forced to take place earlier. If winemakers wait too long to harvest their grapes, they risk to be sunburned from the excess sun exposure. With a vintage like 2017, every grape counts. All around Europe, harvest is taking place earlier than previous years. Luckily the harvest is predicted to be high in quality.