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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 209, September 2021   
Harvest 2021: Lower Quantity, Good QualityHarvest 2021: Lower Quantity, Good Quality  Contents 
Issue 208, Summer 2021 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 210, October 2021

Harvest 2021: Lower Quantity, Good Quality


 Summer, in addition to the sultry temperatures that characterize this season and which, since some years now, have been constantly and worryingly increasing, is also the period during which those who cultivate the vineyard begin to make predictions about the harvest. In recent years – because of the undeniable climate change that is affecting our planet everywhere – making predictions about the harvest, not only for a vineyard, is becoming more and more complex. Of course, I do not have any technical and scientific knowledge in order to be able to discuss the topic of climate change in a concrete and competent way, however – being a “humble” inhabitant of the planet – I can certainly tell the consequences of what is happening. Including from a purely enological point of view, specifically, the sensorial and organoleptic point of view related to wine. In this regard, I can certainly testify how wine has changed in the last thirty years and which characteristics have mainly been affected by the effect of climate change.


 

 For example, in recent years the cultivation of the vine has been started in some areas of North Europe – indeed, with interesting results – something that, undeniably, should make us think. Those who manage to profitably cultivate vines in places traditionally unsuitable for enological purposes will certainly be happy, however, this is unequivocally the concrete sign of climate change taking place, in particular the increase in temperatures. Moreover, this last aspect has had – in general terms – an evident impact on the sensorial aspect of the wines produced in recent years. In particular – although this must also be attributed to reasons of fads and trend, therefore the result of specific wine making practices – in recent decades there has been a progressive increase in the alcoholic strength of wines, the accentuation of their roundness and, consequently, the lesser relative perception of acidity.

 The progressive rise in temperatures, and the consequent scarcity of rainfalls – a condition which has frequently happened during this year – determine more or less severe drought conditions and, consequently, the vines and plants in general are forced to face what is called water stress. Adult plants, with well-formed and developed root systems, have some chance of dealing with this condition, in the hope of being able to take advantage of some water reserve in the deeper subsoil, for the young ones, however, the hopes of survival are decidedly lower. A plant in water stress condition – and the vine is obviously no exception – inevitably, in case it survives, tends to produce less fruits, therefore the harvest is drastically reduced. If we then add to this condition other meteorological events – such as hail and frosts – the harvest is further reduced and in a decidedly significant way.

 These are factors generally affecting quantity, not least and in some cases, with consequences also on quality. In any case, the “bizarre” trend of weather conditions over the seasons – even worse, in case there also are extreme events – is certainly one of those things no grower hopes for at the beginning of each year. In this sense, 2021 seems to be a difficult one. Of course, we are talking about the general weather conditions that characterized the current year and with the necessary exceptions for many areas and territories in which, good for them, the weather was decidedly more forgiving. By analyzing the meteorological trend of 2021, in some areas there were frosts in spring, in July there were rains and hail, moreover, during summer we had very high temperatures and very little rainfalls.

 Forecasts for the 2021 harvest are, at least at this moment, uncertain and, in general terms, with significant drops in production compared to 2020 due to weather conditions. The main causes – as already mentioned – are the rather high temperatures in summer and, even more, the scarcity of rainfall. The first certain news regarding the trend of the 2021 harvest has already arrived from the hottest areas of Italy and, not least, from those which are mainly committed to the production of sparkling wines, specifically Franciacorta and Champagne. The news coming from these two famous wine-growing areas – reference territories of sparkling wine production, respectively of Italy and France – are not exactly positive. In fact, in Franciacorta a significant drop in quantities is expected – compared to the 2020 harvest – because of some frosts occurred in April in addition to the consequences of the hail at the end of July.

 These events, which are added to the sultry summer temperatures, influenced the quantity of the harvest, without however affecting – so they say in Franciacorta – the quality of the grapes. The spring frosts also heavily influenced the vineyards in Champagne, in particular Chardonnay vines for which is estimated a loss of about 30% compared to 2020. Same fate for one of the most important red berried varieties of France – Merlot – which being, like Chardonnay, one of the first ones to sprout, suffered losses due to spring frosts. The forecasts for the grape harvest in France seem to be rather negative, so much so that it is expected to be – according to initial estimates – one of the least productive vintages of the last 50 years. These are of course preliminary estimates – considering that the official figures of the French government are usually released in the September – however they would seem to be confirmed by the areas in which the harvest takes place in advance, such as in Champagne.

 As far as Italy is concerned, Coldiretti (an Italian association of farmers and growers) estimates a drop in harvests – compared to 2020 – from 5 to 10%, foreseeing a quantity of wine produced between 44 and 47 million hectoliters. Everyone agrees, from north to south, on the good quality of the grapes that will arrive in our glasses, after having been transformed into wine. It must be said, for the sake of completeness and except for certain southern areas, the harvest in Italy for the production of table wines – therefore excluding sparkling wines – will mainly take place in September and, for certain particular wines, until October. A rather long period that could still hold surprises, both good and bad. Due to the scarcity of rainfall in these months, in fact, in case of rainfalls at the beginning of September, these would certainly be positive, much less in case they are accompanied by hail. In any case, despite the expected drop in quantity compared to 2020 – which, we should not forget this, was not an exactly simple vintage and for many reasons – my sincere wishes to all vintners and wine-makers, I am sure that, as always, they will be able to get the best, with the usual passion distinguishing them all, from their vineyards. To our joy and satisfaction for having in the glasses – as always – excellent wines.

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 209, September 2021   
Harvest 2021: Lower Quantity, Good QualityHarvest 2021: Lower Quantity, Good Quality  Contents 
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