Many moons ago the Little Old Winemaker at Italian Swiss Colony in Asti used to say that every year was a vintage year in California. This implied California’s weather was ideal and varied little from year to year. However, in the 30+ years I’ve been in the business I have never seen a vintage which hasn’t been unique.
Mike T. Having said that, isn’t it true that good wine is made every year?
Evelyn. Yes, if growers and winemakers work together they can usually react favorably to any curve balls Mother Nature may throw.
Mike T. So what are these curve balls?
Evelyn. The usual suspects – frost, heat spikes, rain, fire . . . . . . . .
Mike T. Let’s take them one at a time. Frost.
Evelyn. The window for frost is relatively short, from late March to early May, but severe damage can occur. Uneven sets and reduced yields can result, as occurred in 2008 and to a lesser extent in 2009.
Mike T. Rain?
Evelyn. Rain can be a problem. Early in the season rain and cool weather can delay grape cluster development, and chances increase for the appearance of mildew and mold. Rains during harvest can foster mildew, lower sugars and dilute the flavors of the grapes. Not good.
Mike T. Like last year.
Evelyn. Precisely. Fortunately most of our own grapes had already been picked, but several clients lost both volume and quality.
Mike T. And fire?
Evelyn. Not usually a problem around here, but in 2008 the huge fires in Mendocino and Napa resulted in some smoke tainted wines from nearby vineyards. It’s a bigger problem in Australia, where the recent years of drought has increased the frequency and severity of wildfires.
Mike T. Nothing else?
Evelyn. Well, you’ve got parasitic wasps, leaf worms, moths, mites, phylloxera, Pierce’s Disease, powdery mildew, rots of various kinds, deer, turkeys, birds. . . . . . . . .
Mike T. STOP! I need a glass of wine.