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Record-breaking early harvest for Spain

Published:  18 August, 2022

Spain has recorded some of its earliest ever harvests this year, with many parts of the country bringing picking forward in order to mitigate a barrage of wildfires, widespread drought and “constant heat”.

Rueda’s Caserío de Dueñas, part of Entrecanales Domecq e Hijos, began its earliest harvest in history this week.

Picking of Sauvignon Blanc grapes commenced in the early morning of Tuesday, 16 August, making it the first in the DO to begin its harvest activities.

Entrecanales Domecq e Hijos is one of Spain’s larger and more prominent wine companies.

Elsewhere, however, earlier picking has become a larger trend across Spain, where “unprecedented and sustained heat” led to the harvest starting around two weeks ahead of usual in parts of Cataluña, where harvest began 27 July.

Jerez has also seen its earliest ever harvest, beginning on 28 July.

“It has been a summer of constant heat across the whole of Europe, with high temperatures both during the day and at night and very little rainfall,” Almudena Alberca MW, winemaking director at Entrecanales Domecq e Hijos, said.

“Wildfires hit many vineyard areas across Europe. The nearest they came to our vineyards was in the DO Valdeorras, although thankfully, our vines were spared. As for the vines that supply our wineries Bodegas Cosme Palacio in DOCa Rioja and Bodegas Viña Mayor in DO Ribera del Duero, the cycle is also running ahead of the usual schedule. Although the veraison process is about 90% there in most cases and is not yet complete. We expect things to have progressed towards harvest by mid-September.”

Alberca went on to address the importance of sustainability priorities in the wake of mounting climate pressure. In addition to the heat, which led to the earliest harvest in Caserío de Dueñas’ 300-year history, she also drew attention to the instability of the climate.

“Over the past 10 years, we’ve experienced very varied conditions in our vineyards, from heavy snowfall and a cool spring in 2021 to this year’s drought and heat. This makes it very difficult to adapt, but we know that strong, healthy vines are most resistant to changing temperatures.”

The focus is now on leaning into sustainability initiatives such as the estate’s biodiversity plan. The estate has also been replanting vineyards with drought-resistant rootstocks, reducing density with fewer vines/hectares and burying irrigation pipes to reduce water use by 30-40%. This includes replanting in excess of 10 different indigenous varieties from depopulated areas of Castilla y Leon, such as Arribes del Duero.

“We believe these to have great potential in extreme conditions,” Alberca said.