Home' A Plus Magazine : December 2013 Contents 58 December 2013
Aloysius Tse looks at
in Western Europe
The 2012 vintage in Europe has been
generally disappointing due to
poor weather conditions persisting
throughout the growing season. January and
February were particularly cold for a Medi-
terranean climate, while low spring rainfall,
a 30 June hailstorm and lower-than-normal
temperatures in August affected ripening.
Drought and intense summer heat curbed
yields in some winegrowing regions. Here is
a summary of the 2012 vintage in the most
important European wine producing countries:
France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Portugal.
In France, there was a cold rainy spring,
followed by intense heat in the summer.
These conditions led to flowering problems.
The wet spring and hot summer also resulted
in widespread mildew. These conditions
existed both in Bordeaux and Burgundy.
In Burgundy, yield was reduced by 30 to
50 percent, while in the Rhône Valley, bad
weather led to small berries, reducing yields
up to 30 percent. The Northern Rhone whites
remain outstanding despite its small crop.
Of all the French regions, Champagne suf-
fered the most, losing up to 2,600 hectares
due to spring frost. However, grapes harvested
in Champagne were generally healthy, with
good levels of acidity balanced by ripe sugar
contents and flavours.
The Loire Valley and the South of France
suffered weather-related effects similar to
those encountered in Burgundy.
In Italy, a wet spring in many regions
lowered yields by up to 40 percent. Early
varietals were worst affected. In Alto Adige,
late ripeners such as Merlot and Cabernet suf-
fered due to cold weather with lots of rain in
September. Yields were 10-20 percent below
Drought conditions in Tuscany delayed
maturity and reduced yields by 30-50 per-
cent. Ripening was uneven due to the pro-
longed flowering period, making har vesting
Piedmont fared better even though the
plentiful rainfall in May and June, coupled
with lower temperatures, resulted in bud loss
and lower yield. Yields in Emilia-Romagna
are way down due to excess heat and the
In Spain, there was an unusually cool
spring. The hot dry summers across the
country meant little disease pressure and
produced concentrated fruit. Cabernet Sau-
vignon was badly affected with yields down
by 70 percent.
Late frost in February, and isolated inci-
dents of hail in July and heat shock reduced
yield by 15 percent in northern Spain’s Ribero
del Duero region. Due to the onslaught of
drought and hailstorms in the Alavesa in June
and July respectively (along with an infesta-
tion of Tetranychus urticae, the European red
spider mite), agricultural officials in the Rioja
region considered that vintage 2012 would
be the smallest har vest since 1945. Other
regions in Spain were less affected.
In Germany, other than the warm and dry
weather around har vest time, the rest of the
year was quite challenging. The cold weather
in May resulted in abnormal fruit set (the
transition from flower to grape), followed by
a period of rainy weather that resulted in mil-
dew. Warm dry weather around har vest time
saved the day. German growers reported
ver y little yield reduction and both Pinot
Noir and Reisling were of good quality.
Portugal saw a large reduction in yield
due to extreme climatic conditions, including
an extended drought and a damaging hail-
storm, cutting yields up to 40 percent in some
leading vineyards. The lengthy drought and
excessive hot summer conditions in specific
areas, such as Alentejo, produced excellent
concentrated grapes. In general, the grapes
were small with good colour, high phenolic
levels, good ripeness, good acidity and high
Throughout these countries, unforgiv-
ing weather conditions during the growing
period have brought low yields. A number of
growers reported small berries and inferior
quality fruit. Chateau d’Yquem has decided
not to produce a 2012 vintage of its world
famous sweet wine due to rains that pre-
vented grapes from reaching the required
levels of concentration.
In October, a Morgan Stanley research
report indicated that as a result of the
poor har vest in Europe, there is a short-
fall between global wine consumption and
production of about 300 million cases. The
report also claims that global production for
v intage 2012 has fallen to its lowest in more
than 40 years.
Furthermore, the International Organiza-
tion of Vine and Wine reports a substantial
23.4 percent increase in the global export
price per litre of bulk wine between 2011
and 2012. We can therefore expect to have to
pay a fair bit more for wine for our Christmas
and New Year celebrations this year.
A drought-affected vineyard in the Burgundy region of France.
Aloysius Tse is Chairman of Bacchus Fine
Wines Group and a Past President of the Hong
Kong Institute of CPAs.
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