Reflection on the 2018 harvest in the Northern Hemisphere

October 18, 2018 by French Corner Cellars

With the bulk of the harvest in the north hemisphere over, we can start predicting how 2018 vintage will look when bottles get pulled from our Avintage wine cabinets later! Let us have a brief look at the 4 major wine producing areas.

 In France, 2018 looks to be a very promising vintage. At least in terms of the harvest, which was above satisfactory in most of the country, showing a 21% increase over the disastrous 2017 vintage. 2018 featured above average rainfalls in late winter which help the vines to strive during the hot summer days. July was the warmest on record since 1947. Consequently, some regions, such as in Champagne and Alsace, harvested significantly earlier than usual. Some areas in the South West and the Languedoc region suffered from the excess of water early in the season, resulting in a significant increase of mildew - Merlot and Ugni Blanc have been highly impacted by the fungus. As a result, the Languedoc production will be below the last 5-year average at 12.4 Mhl. And finally, in Bordeaux, most of the vineyards managed to fight efficiently against the mildew, but some appellations were not as lucky, having been battered by hail in May and June.

 This year Italy is looking at a 10-20% increase over 2017, due largely in part to the abundance of rain over key regions. Prosecco had close to an ideal season – a warm summer, with cool spell right before harvest, helped along by a little rain. Grapes in Tuscany ended up with more acidity, which will lead to wine with more freshness. In Piedmont spring arrived late, accompanied by damaging hail and fungal disease. Despite these challenges, warm temperatures with cool evenings throughout the rest of the season led to a high quality in the grapes. Marche and Campania, much like Piedmont, saw heavy rains, hail and mildew. In Campania, this led to a significant loss of quantity for Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avallino. However, the overall quality of Italian wines in 2018 is expected to be higher than usual, with white wines making a massive leap in expected sales – showcased by an especially sharp increase in Vermentino production.

 Spain has quite a bit of ground to make up in 2018. With a loss in 2017 of over 25% from 2016 due to frost, then a drought soon after, the 2018 vintage has turned things around. Big volumes abound, and like Italy, a hefty increase in white wine production is taking place. Last year’s ‘take it or leave it’ approach from wineries due to its low volumes, pricing is once again back in the hands of the buyers. Wines in Southern areas are expected to show well, with a noticeable increase in quality the further North you travel.

 And to round everything off, we end with California. 2018 had seen an uneventful start for the wine regions, unlike 2017, where the effects of drought, and constant wildfires had led to an early harvest. Wine growers began in mid-August harvesting what is said to be a landmark year for California wines. A little later than expected due to some issues like a late bud break, but wineries in areas like Santa Barbara have described 2018 as a ‘classic vintage’ due to the cooler weather. Paso Robles experienced the hottest July on record, inhibited ripening, much like the effect cold spells had in 2011. Overall, 2018 proved to be a more even, and less challenging vintage than 2017 in California, leaving winemakers and consumers alike excited for the wines to come.