A month ago I gave preliminary details on the wine grape harvest in the Northern Hemisphere. The fundamental factors have not changed in a month: 2015 is the hottest year on record, thus grapes were harvested early and the total amount of grapes declined in most grape-growing regions. The question that growers and vintners must ponder over the winter is, “Is this the new normal”? Here we go.
“Following the difficult vintage of 2014, estates are reckoning a volume of 2.4–2.5 million hectolitres”, according to Austrian Winegrowers’ Association president Johannes Schmuckenschlager, commenting upon the prospects for the vintage year 2015. The quality and volume exceeds last year’s as rains during August saved the crop.
The 2015 wine grape harvest in California declined by 35 percent, as previously reported. However, fans of California wine need not complain as the previous three harvests were huge. There will not be a shortage of California wine. Most grape varieties ripened a month ahead of schedule due to the intense summer heat.
Alsace: 2015 wines are expected to have high alcohol levels, up to 16 per cent, and there may be too much sugar in the grapes to make the traditionally dry Alsatian wines. Sweet wines may be made by drying the grapes. Acidification has been allowed in Alsace for the first time in many years.
Bordeaux: The world’s most widely known wine region comes through with the best harvest in several years. “It’s still too early to say if it is going to be very good or great”, said consultant Eric Boissenot, as quoted by Decanter magazine.
Burgundy: The Pinot Noir grapes were some of the smallest seen since 2009. The potential wine should be intense and rich, well balanced with good acidity. However, days before the harvesting was to start, Chablis was hit by a hail storm, around 2 percent of the Chablis district was affected.
Champagne: The harvest started 10 days before the 2014 harvest and growers are saying the grapes are of “exceptional” quality.
Rhône: Northern Rhône growers stated it may be “the best harvest in 55 years.” In the southern Rhône, the only problem was the ripening of the mainstay Grenache grape. One grower commented on the Grenache “headache” stating, “I’m losing sleep over this problem.”
August rains in Germany helped to save the 2015 crop. A hot and dry summer reduced yields, the rains moved in and grapes began ripening in the second week of September, later than usual. Grapes that ripen later such as Sylvaner and Riesling benefited from October’s sunny weather. The higher sugar content means higher alcohol levels, around 13. 5 percent and above. The fermenting wines have a good aroma but will have to rest on the yeast longer than usual. Only then will we know if 2015 is a great year for Germany.
The summer weather was hot in some regions and irrigation had to be employed. Still, national sources report the crop yielding 42 million hectolitres as opposed to last year’s 42 million-a 12 percent increase. Annual rainfall is typically about 1,000mm, but it was only about 400mm in 2015. Because of the dry weather, little disease was reported. The weather cooled off in September thus adding “elegance” to the wines, one vintner reports. The Prosecco harvest looked good it is reported.
Oregon is generally a cooler region than California but its 2015 grape harvest, as in California, ran two weeks ahead of schedule and the quality of Pinot Noir was perhaps too good. Some vintners hoped to make balanced Pinots, rather than big, brawny and high-alcohol wines that could distort the traditional character of Pinot Noir.
Early reports indicated that the grape harvest was running two weeks ahead of schedule with quality estimates in the good to great range. Rain in mid-August suggested that production levels should be good.
[Article by David Swartzentruber]