Bringing in the Grapes — Part V

October 14, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More

Readers of ProjectSunlight have noted a recurring theme over the past month.  The weather, at least insofar as vineyard mangers in Virginia are concerned, really sucked this year.

Our classmates from PVCC's viticulture studies at work picking Cab Franc at DuCard

It may be small comfort to the Commonwealth’s vignerons, but the weather has generally sucked worldwide. Jancis Robinson, in her Financial Times column last weekend, detailed the carnage in California and Europe, and even in the Southern Hemisphere, where the growing season is reversed.

 “If Europe’s vintners have found 2011 much more trying than any other recent vintage, six months earlier, while picking their 2011s, the Australians experienced the vintage from hell,” she wrote.  “Harvest time in the supposedly sunny wine state of South Australia was sodden.  Winemakers have had to work extremely hard in some areas to fashion drinkable wine out of bloated, rotten grapes.”

And it goes beyond Australia.  “The vintage in New Zealand was bloated too, thanks to frenzied recent planting of vines there, fuelled by a belief that the world is in love with Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc,” she added.  “Argentine growers were also afflicted by rain at harvest time in 2011, as well as the usual hail, and unusually late frost in November last year.”

So, weather-related problems span the globe.  As I’ve noted before, that’s the way it is with agriculture.  You really have no control over the weather, although you can compensate to some extent – to a great extent in normal years, less so in years like 2011 – with a disciplined spraying program. 

And winemakers can exert some magic of their own once the grapes come in.  This year will be difficult for sure, and none of the winemakers I’ve spoken to have any illusions about the challenges ahead of them.  This vintage will definitely separate the men from the boys, so to speak, and show, as Ms. Robinson said, “who exactly are those master craftsmen.”


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Category: All Posts, Virginia Wineries, Viticulture, Wine

Comments (1)

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  1. Robert M. Garsson says:

    Okay, if you were wondering whether I was being too flip in saying that, for Virginia vineyard managers, the weather really sucked this year, check out the Wine Spectator at
    Under the headline, “Will California Grapes Rot on the Vine?”, they write:
    The sun has returned for now to California wine country, but following a series of rainstorms that swept through the state in the past two weeks, growers and winemakers are scrambling to salvage what was once a promising vintage. “This really sucks,” said Fetzer winemaker Dennis Martin. “I’ve been in the business for 36 years and this is one of the worst vintages I’ve ever seen.”

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