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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 220, September 2022   
Harvest 2022: Between Torrid Heat and DroughtHarvest 2022: Between Torrid Heat and Drought  Contents 
Issue 219, Summer 2022 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 221, October 2022

Harvest 2022: Between Torrid Heat and Drought


 In recent years, talking about harvesting and trying to make summary forecasts, we always end up underlining the growing and worrying increase in summer temperatures – and each passing year it seems to get worse – and the consequent drought. In past recent years, in fact, the same climatic conditions are repeated and the impressions of the producers seem to be the same to those of the previous year. Too hot, early harvest, good quality with a more or less serious decrease in quantity, scarcity of rainfall, vines in serious water suffering, consequent and inevitable critical conditions in the vineyard. 2022, nonetheless, was evidently more sultry and hotter than 2021, with very little rain, ripening of the grapes – obviously suffering from the lacking of water – widely in advance everywhere in Italy. It is no coincidence, for example, the harvest has already begun in various Italian regions and not only for wineries that produce sparkling wines.


 

 Italy, of course, is not the only country to deal with the severe climatic conditions of this summer, as similar situations are reported in practically all the countries of the Northern Hemisphere. This is not just a critical condition for viticulture, as it concerns the entire agricultural sector. France is also experiencing worrying drought conditions, such as to subject the vine to excessive water suffering. This particular critical condition produces different consequences and according to many factors. The worst of them all, definitely, concerns the course of ripening, especially in summer, when the fundamental phase of the development of the berries and of the substances contained therein takes place. In other words, it is a fundamental and crucial moment determining the quality of the grape and everything it can contribute to the best enological result, for any style of wine. Furthermore, it must be considered that not all vines are the same.

 It must be said, in fact, the ability of the vine to adapt to a specific type of soil and dig into the depth of the soil in search of water, changes according to the variety, more specifically, to the type and characteristics of the rootstock on which it grows. As is well known, following the disastrous introduction of phylloxera in European vineyards at the end of the 1800s and early 1900s, the cultivation of the vine is today ensured by the use of rootstocks of varieties resistant to the attacks of this fearsome aphid. Rootstocks, just like the varieties of vines, are different from each other and every one has specific capacity and cultural characteristics in order to make them suitable and appropriate for the specific type of soil where it will be planted. There are therefore rootstocks capable of withstanding the conditions of water stress more, while others need soils that are moist and capable of retaining water. The choice of the rootstock for the vine – in fact – is meticulously carried out both on the basis of the grape variety and the soil where the future vineyard will be cultivated in.

 Specifically, as for the situation in Italy, the harvest began a week earlier than last year and a 10% drop in yields is expected. The reason, in both cases, is determined by the drought and by the temperatures which, especially in July, have abundantly exceeded 40 °C (104 °F). The first bunches to be harvested in Italy were those of Sicily, in early August, followed by Franciacorta with the harvesting of Pinot grapes and Chardonnay. Wine production in Italy is currently estimated at around 45.5 million hectoliters, with a decrease – as already mentioned – of 10% compared to 2021. Estimates for 2022 harvest suggest, at this moment, a good quality vintage, saved the case of sudden weather changes over the next few weeks that could damage the vineyards. In particular, the occurrence of rains close to harvesting time and, even worse, of hail, an event – the latter – which would cause serious damage to the health of the grapes.

 To tell the truth, not all Italian regions complain of damage from heat and drought in the same way. Geographical, territorial and climatic differences – so different from north to south – necessarily determine the criticality of the vineyards differently. In some regions, in fact, conditions seem to be more critical, while in others, especially in the north of the country and in the mountain areas, there are no particular critical conditions which could compromise the harvest. In truth, in no region of Italy are reported – at this moment – serious and irreversible conditions which could compromise the harvest, except for the general decrease in quantities which is recorded almost everywhere in Italy. Then, as is well known for anyone who carries out an agricultural activity, including viticulture, it is precisely in vintages like this one – characterized by sultry heat and more or less severe drought – that sudden and fatal meteorological episodes can occur, such as hail and abundant rain, which leave little or no hope of harvesting the fruit of one's labor.

 The severe drought, of course, would greatly benefit from providential rains capable of quenching the thirst of the soil and therefore allowing the roots to get beneficial water, an event which could also change, for the better, the outcome of the 2022 harvest. This is true, of course, for the so-called late varieties only, that is those ripening later than others and which could fear the effects of sudden negative meteorological changes. The early varieties, most likely, will have already been harvested almost everywhere and certainly in the hottest regions of the country, as the temperatures of this summer have forced an early harvesting in different parts of Italy. If the central-southern European area has been looking with quite a concern at the increase in summer temperatures and long periods of drought for years, to the north, on the other hand, are enjoying these changes with satisfaction, so much so that they imagine an important enological future.

 In the United Kingdom, in fact, they are saying the climatic changes occurred in recent years are transforming the country into an ideal territory for the production of wine, in particular those produced with certain grapes and styles. If until a few decades ago the cultivation of the vine, and therefore the production of wine, was an unimaginable possibility in those lands, the increase in temperatures now allows them to make, and with success, wines produced with grapes that prefer cool climates, such as Pinot Noir. In fact, for some time now, they have been saying they have been able to make sparkling wines that, in style, are quite similar to French Champagnes, just because the climate is changing, becoming more and more similar to that of central and northern France. Moreover, in the United Kingdom are predicting – not least – that the probable increase in temperatures will allow them to become an ideal land for red wines, in particular those produced with Pinot Noir. In short, Burgundy – and not only it – could have a new and important competitor within ten years.

 Professor Stephen Dorling, of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, notes that the current sparkling wine production in the United Kingdom is characterized by a style very similar to the bubbles of French Champagne. A result that was mainly determined by the climate change which made the one of the United Kingdom similar to France. This change also suggests that the best growing conditions for Pinot Noir will move to the north, from France to the UK. In the meantime, they are also saying that in 2018, and for the first time, the production of red wine in the United Kingdom has been over 15.6 million bottles. In short, if in the European countries historically committed to viticulture and enology – like Italy, in fact – we wonder with quite a concern about the future of wine because of the increase in summer temperatures and drought, in the northern lands they start to see a new and glorious future. Meanwhile, according to the forecasts – with the 2022 harvest and thanks to the trend of the vintage – the United Kingdom is confident of improving the result of 2018. Personally speaking, I am certainly convinced that vintners of Europe – regardless of what it is going to happen in the UK – will be capable of giving us magnificent wines for vintage 2022 and the future ones. Including and above all Italy, despite the difficult year marked by this oppressive and terribly sultry heat. Cheers!

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 220, September 2022   
Harvest 2022: Between Torrid Heat and DroughtHarvest 2022: Between Torrid Heat and Drought  Contents 
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