Nature giveth, and she taketh away. Just when we all thought that Global Warming might be making wine a little easier to make in Europe, the summer of 2007 comes along and reminds us that we can put a man on the moon, but we’re not any better at predicting the weather more than about 7 days out.
In case you haven’t been following the news, it’s looking like the 2007 vintage in Bordeaux is going to be one of the worst in recent memory. Unseasonably cold and hard rains have decimated the grape crops, to current estimates of approximately 90% loss due to rain damage and subsequent mildew and rot. Just remember this when someone offers you 2007 Bordeaux futures. Apparently the issues are not confined to Bordeaux, having affected vineyards in both the Loire and the Rhone. Burgundy, apparently, is mostly fine for now.
While it’s clear that the vintage is not a total failure at this point, more rain could certainly push things over the edge. However, should the weather stay sunny through August, some decent fruit may be produced, especially in those areas with lower humidity.
The implications of late season rains and their attendant mildew for winegrowers are myriad, but mostly they equal a lot of work and a lot of expense to salvage any usable fruit. Workers are generally required to make daily or even hourly passes through the vineyards to quickly cut off any clusters of grapes which show mildew or rot, as well as to manage the leaf canopy to ensure sun exposure to the damp grapes in the hopes of drying them to avoid mildew. Presumably there are also treatments like sulfur and other concoctions (provided you’re not Biodynamic) to help prevent mildew and rot. No matter how you slice it as a grower, you’re looking at spending more money, and getting fewer good grapes.
England too, has had its share of adversity this year. Most people still aren’t used to thinking of Britain as a wine producing nation, but rising global temperatures have helped the quality of its wine production, the best of which appears to be some quite excellent sparkling wines. It’s somewhat unclear how the torrential rains and flooding are affecting the harvest, there are some initial reports (that for the life of my I cannot seem to find the link to at the moment) that suggest it may be hard going for English winemakers this year as well.
All this on the heels of some awful news in the Northern Rhone and Alsace a couple of weeks ago. A tough year for wine in many places, and a good reminder of how blessed many regions (such as California) are with generally much less volatile weather.