The British are renowned for talking about the weather at every opportunity if only as part of a polite greeting. But it seems we have little to complain about, so many parts of the world are experiencing extreme weather conditions which devastate lives and livelihoods.
The wine community is full of comment as the 2017 grape harvest is well underway. Although picking is 10-14 days early, due to a pleasingly warm June, it has been a particularly complicated growing season in Europe, notably France & Italy, with late frosts in April, extreme temperatures in mid-Summer and hailstorms in August.
Encouraged by a mild March the vine shoots and buds emerged early, only to be decimated weeks later by widespread frosts. Despite the desperate efforts of vineyard managers, lighting fires between the vines to keep temperatures from dipping further, many hectares were lost. The result has been that yields are reportedly down as much as 40% in France and 25% in Italy compared to last year. In South America where grapes were harvested in April/May, yields were also down due to extreme heat, drought and wildfires but most Southern Hemisphere producers agree that 2017 will be remembered for excellent ripeness and impressive concentration.
But what does all this mean to the wine lover?
It is too early to say yet but the 2017 harvest in Europe also, with tiny yields and glorious ripeness, could potentially rival some of the greatest vintages of the 20th century. Nothing is certain until the wine begins to show its paces in the Spring but, as night follows day, low yields and high quality mean price rises. The challenge for independent wine merchants like ourselves, who are not restricted to wines only available in large volumes, is to find good value even if it means that we have to go to lesser-known vineyards. Those who do choose to fork out a little more on wine from the classic regions can, in due course, expect to be rewarded with 2017’s of character and excellent quality.