It has been a wild up-and-down year for wine. In many cases, Mother Nature has not been particularly kind. Here’s a quick look at some of the major events both locally and abroad:
The year started with wildfires burning vineyards in Chile. Since the growing cycle in South America is opposite that of North America, these fires were happening at a time when grapes were on the vines and on their way to ripening. A number of smaller vineyards lost their whole crop for the year, and all of their vines, which means it will be years before they are able to produce wine again.
The Barns at Hamilton Station wins the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition. Every January, a group of judges taste hundreds of wines submitted by Virginia wineries to be part of the Governor’s Case--the twelve best wines in the state. Of those twelve, one is given the top honor of the Governor’s Cup. This year, the top prize went to The Barns at Hamilton Station, for their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.
There wasn’t much in the way of wine news in March. Bud break was happening across the northern hemisphere while the southern hemisphere was in the middle of harvest.
In April there was good news and bad news for France. In early April, wine writers and critics got their first taste of the 2016 vintage of Bordeaux wines during en primeur week. Even though these wines won’t be released to the market for several more years, en primeur week gives wineries the chance to start selling these wines and generating some buzz about them. So far, the buzz around the 2016 is very positive.
The news turned less positive at the end of April, when parts of France and Italy were hit by frost and hail. Parts of Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Loire Valley suffered significant losses of vines that had already started to bud. In addition to frost, parts of the Peidmont region of Italy suffered damage from hail, knocking out portions of their Nebbiolo crop.
On May 5, City Vino opened its doors in downtown Fredericksburg!
In June, we started to see harvest reports from the southern hemisphere, where they were getting ready for Winter. While challenging at times, Mother Nature was ultimately favorable toward South Africa, producing a quality vintage that is already starting to hit the market.
Meanwhile, back at home, we held our Grand Opening, attended by Mayor Greenlaw and approximately 40 friends and family members.
Reports from South America indicated they were largely able to produce a good quality vintage despite issues with extreme temperatures, frost, and fires throughout the growing season that all served to reduce the overall amount of wine produced.
In continued bad news for France, a mid-month hail storm in parts of Burgundy and Beaujolais caused significant damage to grapes, vines and canopy.
Locally, a number of regional wineries won gold medals at the Virginia State Fair wine competition.
Overall, the weather in Virginia was very favorable this year for wine growing, resulting in some wineries starting harvest earlier than normal. Unlike previous years, there weren’t significant issues with frost, excessive heat, or excessive rain.
Confirming what many had already suspected, France reported its lowest harvest levels since WWII. Many winemakers are still hopeful that the quality of the wine that is produced will be high. While they don’t expect much of a price increase, there may be issues with shortages for their lower-tier wines.
On October 8, wildfires broke out in “wine country," quickly becoming the biggest wine story of the year. Eleven wineries suffered significant to total destruction of their buildings. The full effects of these fires, including damage to structures, vines and loss of tourism business, will be felt for years to come.
In continued bad news, the EU announced historically low harvests across many wine producing countries in Europe.
While 2017 hasn’t been so positive for many parts of the wine growing world, it was definitely a good year for Virginia. Many winemakers across the state are very pleased with the quality and quantity of fruit they are seeing this year.
Overall, the 2017 vintage from California is looking better than expected. A majority of grapes were already picked before the October fires started so there was minimal loss to this year’s crop. Washington and Oregon are also looking at good vintages for 2017, despite their own issues with wildfires in the summer.
On the research front, archeologists discovered the oldest evidence of winemaking in Georgia. Chemical analysis on the remains of 8000-year-old pottery jars shows residue of tartaric and malic acids--the two primary acids in wine. This discovery extends the history of wine by at least 500 years. Other sites under investigation may extend that history even further.
To round out the year wildfires are now threatening wineries in Southern California, the full impact of which is yet to be known.
2017 wasn't the best year for many of the world's wineries, thanks to Mother Nature. Let's hope she's kinder in 2018.