Let the harvest commence… early

European winemakers are preparing for the earliest harvest in almost 200 years. This spring was even hotter than the famously warm vintage of 2003. Producers in Loire, Champagne and Douro are all expecting it to start mid-August, around about the same time the new premier league season is kicking off (oh, how I’ve missed you so). Beaujolais’ harvest is expected on the 15th with Bordeaux and Burgundy towards the end of the month.

The lessons learned in 2003 may stand them well for this year. Many are now cutting their holidays short to be there in case a sudden and rapid period of ripening leads to cooked grapes, and cooked grapes, as you might know, leads to unbalanced wines, often too high in alcohol. Fortunately many of the regions have not experienced damp, humid conditions so rot and mildew have been largely avoided.

Gavin Quinney’s (Château Bauduc) updates on Twitter show that while you’ve got to be on the ball, sometimes it’s all in the hands of the gods:

@GavinQuinney: After months of praying for some rain, we’ve had enough in the last 3 weeks. Critical days ahead: no more, please.

Loire is about three weeks ahead of schedule and the Douro expects a smaller and earlier harvest following high temperatures and low rainfall. Although it is difficult to tell now, the overall quality of 2011 is going to be under more scrutiny than usual, but despite challenging conditions I would expect the best producers to handle this harvest well. Good luck, guys!

Source: The Drinks Business

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