2011 Harvest Season Full of Extremes

This growing season’s crazy weather conditions with extreme frosts, early summers and no summers have created quite a mixed bag for wine region harvests from California to Champagne to Chianti.

Many spots in Europe are already half way through their harvest creating the earliest harvest season many can remember. Reports from Greece last week showed several regions already underway. In France, due to a sunnier and warmer than usual spring, Champagne started on 19 August, their earliest harvest since 1822. Bordeaux also got underway in August due to high temperatures which advance the ripening.

Italian wine producers are predicting a great year although the temperatures could lead to volume down by 5%. Last year Italy surpassed France as the world’s leading wine producer with 49.6 million hectolitres produced vs. 46.2 million in France. For many Italian regions September weather will still be a factor. Cool temperatures at night will produce fragrant whites and well-structured reds.

The U.S. West Coast has dealt with a late short summer which will find some harvest seasons stretch into late November. California and the Northwest’s cold, wet early summer conditions mean a later than usual harvest. Oregon will have one of its coldest vintages in years. Eastern Washington’s late November frost could mean volumes are down 15-20% this year. Central California also had one of its worst frosts in years this growing season.

While those on the U.S. East Coast with last week’s crazy forces, an earthquake and Hurricane Irene, are reporting little impact. Virginia’s ideal conditions of a warm, dry summer should mean a great harvest.

As the grapes get picked and the wine starts production, we’ll see what all this means in the bottle in the coming months.

*Sources Wine Spectator, ANSA