Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Regionalised price increases set to squeeze Europe’s big three thanks to woeful harvest

Published:  05 January, 2018

Europe ran the full gamut of extreme weather conditions last year - everything from frost to fires and heatwaves.

The extent to which vineyards in the core wine producing countries of France, Italy and Spain were affected has been highlighted in a new report from Bibendum, in particular, France, where volumes are expected to be 19% down in volume against 2016, and 18% down on the five-year average, according to the French agriculture ministry.

April frosts swept across the continent last year, damaging vines in most of France’s growing regions followed by a summer heatwave and drought which meant harvest was brought forward for many producers.

This was the case in Bordeaux, which recorded some of the earliest harvest dates in some areas this year and where volumes were down by up to 50% in some areas.

Medoc on the left bank was a notable exception thanks to its excess of water.

The right bank appellations of St-Emilion and Pomerol however were badly affected, and while grapes are generally believed to be of high quality, late frosts had a profound effect on vineyards in almost all areas if the region.

“The 2017 vintage leaves us with a bitter aftertaste. The weather was very complicated,” said Jerome Cosson, technical director at Chateau d'Arche in Sauternes, where early budburst and subsequent frosts proved fatal to the young shoots.

The parcels of Barsac and Leogeats (Graves) were particularly affected, with only the hillside sites protected.

In Spain, a varied harvest ranged from devastatingly low yields due to frosts in Rioja, to good volumes for sherry producers, the report said.

A lethal combination of frosts quickly followed by a heatwave struck in many regions, for which the trade should expect to see some regionalised price increases.

Scorching temperatures also accompanied a drought, reducing previously half-full reservoirs to their lowest point for over 20 years and leading to depleted volumes across the country, “In what has been described as ‘the worst year for agriculture in Spain for decades’,” according to Bibendum buyer for Spain Jamie Avenell.

In Rioja, Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa were the worst affected by severe April frosts, with volumes expected to be down by 25-40% across the region.

Similar weather patterns also significantly damaged volumes across Italy last year.

Quality is believed to be good, particularly in the North West, but shortages are prevalent in Prosecco, Chianti, Brunello and the South islands, again with pricing to reflect low yields in these areas.

“The 2017 vintage will be about 25% smaller than the current average Italian harvest, and the smallest for 60 years,” says Bibendum buyer for Italy, Matt Smith. “The drought made the harvest a race to finish, and generally the harvest progressed about two weeks earlier than normal.”

In the Veneto region, April frosts caused significant damage, leading to an overall 15% dent in Prosecco volumes.

According to Smith, while Veneto’s DOC vineyards densely planted on plains were hit hard by spring frost, the hillside DOCG vineyards of Valdobbiadene weren’t affected.