Fairly uncommon climatic factors have resulted in very low grape yields in Rioja this year. In line with our viticulture team’s report winter and spring had less rainfall and higher temperatures than average in the region. Convergence of both factors caused early shoots with regards to a normal cycle. 2017’s grape harvest was an exceptionally early harvest; as far as our growers are concerned, the earliest ever, finishing by late September. In terms of yields, the slide in grape harvest was more than 20% down on 2016.
Towards the end of April some areas in the D.O. were hard hit by frost. At first it was thought that vines could recover due to new and secondary shoots. Nevertheless, as time went by, grape-growers became aware of the fact that frost had been harder than estimated and that buds were weak and bore no shoots.
Some vineyards, however, were not hit by adverse climatic factors and continued their normal cycle, but their phenological pattern was quickened by 15 days due to high temperatures. On the other hand, agricultural and climatic data obtained throughout the region estimated an advance of even 20 days in some of the earliest regions. Field assessment on these vineyards showed less compact clusters with fewer berries due to severe drought along the harvest.
During the summer months timely rainfall helped fight back the level of hydric stress of some plots. During August this ripening process had a good thermal range between day and night, up to 20ºC. All of this favored phenological ripening and resulted in optimum balance of berry compounds.
As the grape harvest was drawing near, our viticulture team was able to confirm that while yields would be lower than usual, even lower than the Regulatory Council had foreseen, berry quality was extremely high. This will ensure the launch of great wines from this 2017 vintage.
A complex European context
According to an article published by Reuters on 24th October, “Global wine production this year is set to fall to its lowest level since 1961 after harsh weather in Western Europe damaged vineyards in the world’s largest production area, international wine body OIV said on Tuesday”.
The new Osservatorio del Vino italiano, in close cooperation with ISMEA and Unione Italiana Vini, had published a report, dated 8th September, 2017, outlining this year’s grape harvest prospects. The Osservatorio had predicted a 26% fall in yields in Italy in comparison with the same period last year.
Different sources from the wine sector in Italy stated that the harvest was being very complex due to uncommon seasonal tendencies that were attributed to climate change. On the other hand, quality in most wine-producing geographical areas is said to be optimum and sustained, which also holds true for Spain.
Severe weather conditions have affected grape growers across Europe, especially Spain’s chief competitors in Italy and France. In line with these climatic factors across Europe, Spain has also experienced icy conditions, hail, and – above all – drought. This has meant that the wine produced in Spain this year is scarce but excellent.
According to the report mentioned above, cited by Observatorio Español del Mercado del Vino (OeMv), Italy would stay the world’s major wine producer, with an overall production of 40 million hectoliters of wine, outperforming Spain and France where production has also plummeted. As well, Osservatorio del Vino italiano had predicted a slide in wine production in Spain to 38.4 million hectoliters, a 20% decrease on last year. These figures revealed that Spain would be the world’s second largest producer this year. France in turn, having had a 17% fall in produce, would be the third largest wine producer.