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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 198, September 2020   
Wine Restarts from Harvesting 2020Wine Restarts from Harvesting 2020  Contents 
Issue 197, Summer 2020 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on Twitter 

Wine Restarts from Harvesting 2020


 It is difficult, in this period, to talk about anything other than the planetary situation determined by the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, it is difficult to separate wine from this subject as it is, like all other productive and economic sectors, strongly affected by its effects. It seems difficult, in fact, in the current state of things, to make predictions because of the general uncertainty we are going through and the only certainty we have are facts, what they produce and have produced in recent months. We are forced to navigate on sight, with not exactly encouraging market results, although there are clear signs of recovery, however not enough to recover the losses. We certainly must start over from somewhere and, as the effects of the pandemic have obviously not altered the cycle of the seasons, the vines in vineyards are now about to give the new bunches of grapes, ready to be harvested.


 

 In some parts of Italy, as a matter of fact, harvesting has started some weeks ago, especially in the areas where sparkling wines are produced and in many southern regions. In the time when part of the wine of vintage 2019 has already taken its way to the distillery in order to obtain alcohol to be used for the production of disinfectant gel – a product, unfortunately, in great demand in this period – it is also the time to start a new chapter and in which we all are having high hopes for the immediate future. Two thousand and twenty has definitely been, to say the least, a nefarious year for wine: it started with the protectionist measures of duties by the United States of America and which caused a lot of troubles for the wine market, then – as if all that was not enough – has been declared the Covid-19 pandemic, inflicting another and very heavy blow to wine economy and related activities.

 It is clearly too early to make any reliable prediction, as the harvesting period in Italy may also last for over three months – in some cases, in fact, the grapes are harvested even in November – however, the news coming from the regions that have already started harvesting seem to be encouraging. In particular, as already mentioned, from the southern regions of Italy and in the areas committed to the production of sparkling wines. At the moment we can of course make a preliminary estimate only as, in any case, the quality of which we can talk about now is the presumed one obtained by the observation of the ripening grapes and which, apparently, seems to be very good in all Italy. All this, of course, hoping Mother Nature will spare us from unwelcome surprises by means of negative weather events that whoever is working in the agriculture knows very well to be an unpredictable and constant risk.

 In general terms, it should be said the constant presence of the sun and the sultry temperatures which characterized July and August seem to have accelerated – something easily predictable – the ripening of the grapes, thus anticipating the start of harvesting. In particular, in addition to the grapes typically used for the production of sparkling wines, the harvesting operations in this summer months have mainly involved Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and, in general terms, white grape varieties. The first remarks coming from producers, talk about a very high quality of the grapes although there is a decrease in quantitative terms compared to 2019. The decrease in quantity, in any case, does not seem to excessively worry the wineries which, we should not forget that, still have the non so trivial problem of selling last year's wines in the market. In any case, the supposed – and hopefully, confirmed – quality of the grapes of 2020 harvest is certainly excellent news giving us good hopes for the near future.

 It is impossible, in fact, to forget or not to consider the negative effects of the pandemic on the wine economy, with huge drops in sales, especially in the important share represented by exports. Regarding vintage 2020, it is expected a production of 45 million hectoliters, with a decrease of about 5% compared to 2019. This decrease is largely due to the containment measures adopted during the so-called lockdown and which provided, in fact, for a lowering of yields in the vineyards. Harvesting 2020, despite the prediction on the quality of the grapes, is positive and encouraging, it however seems to face practical difficulties, specifically, the availability of labor and operators who will actually be in the vineyards to harvest the bunches. Due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, workers usually coming from abroad are having some problem to reach or enter Italy.

 In fact, it should be noted that, in most cases, during the period of harvesting, wineries usually hire additional personnel and labor in order to satisfy the greater workload and which certainly cannot wait. In other words, when the grapes are ripe they must be harvested and the operation cannot be delayed, in order to avoid over-ripening, thus compromising the quality of wine. Just as happens in other areas of agricultural production, workers from abroad are often hired and, due to the restrictions imposed by preventive and health measures, many have had difficulty in reaching Italy or have been denied entry in our country. These are time-based contracts, with a validity strictly necessary to cover the harvesting period only, often with the help of temporary agencies in Italy or from other countries. This is an important share of the economy generated by the wine sector, one of the many and obviously not the only one.

 The other main European wine producing countries –  France and Spain – are facing the same difficulties and, not least, the same doubts and perplexities about wine market. For these countries, in addition to the measures adopted because of the Covid-19 pandemic, have also played a significant negative role the duties imposed by the United States of America and which have produced significant losses in exports. In this regard, the case of Champagne is emblematic which, right because of the drastic drop in sales in 2020 – both due to the Covid-19 pandemic and to the duties imposed by the USA- – they decided for a drastic reduction of yields and production. This year, in fact, in Champagne will be produced 230 million bottles only: a number that makes us think if we compare it to the productions of past years and which were over 300 million.

 These times – and we all unfortunately know it – are not simple and raise epochal and certainly complex problems to solve. Somewhere, however, we have to start again and harvesting 2020 certainly is an excellent starting point. The quality, they say, is very high and this will lead to the production of great wines. A good reason to be optimistic for, although concretely realistic and without excessive illusions. This is a gigantic effort – however necessary and fundamental – and it is all too understandable that wineries, already in evident troubles because of the market trend in 2020, are now forced to make other and difficult decisions. Starting from the vineyard, then continuing in the winery, finally to the bottle. Somewhere and in some way we need to start again. It will be hard – it is already very difficult, and we all know this very well – but in the end it will be a success. I am optimistic and I am convinced of it. The storm does not last forever: sooner or later, inevitably, arrives the rainbow.

Antonello Biancalana



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  Editorial Issue 198, September 2020   
Wine Restarts from Harvesting 2020Wine Restarts from Harvesting 2020  Contents 
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