Spring vineyard, Napa Valley, California
Photo: PK Read
I saw recently that Napa Valley wineries had already started their grape harvesting season as of August 1 this year, almost two weeks earlier than the average, due to a short winter combined with a long and mild spring.
So I wondered whether our long, wet, cold winter, combined with a long, wet, cold spring and a massive hailstorm, had affected harvest expectations in our wine region of western Switzerland.
The answer, in a word, is: Yes.
Expectations for the Swiss vendanges – the wine harvest – are not high this year. The June 20 hailstorm destroyed around 6% of the Swiss vineyard crop within five minutes, affecting a potential 6 millions liters (1.6 million gallons) of Swiss wine. Harvesting isn’t expected for the remaining vines until well into September.
Swiss vineyard after a hailstorm
Photo: Les News
Over in the French Champagne region, about three hours north from where we live, violent hailstorms from July 26-27 destroyed large swathes of vineyards – some areas experiencing a 10% loss, others 100%, with an overall loss expected of around 30% of this year’s crop. The same holds true for the Burgundy region.
Hailstorms (and even a “mini-tornado”) destroyed vineyards, but to a lesser extent, in the Bordeaux region as well. The French and Swiss Ministries of Agriculture are looking into adjusting insurance strategies to allow for ‘climatic risks’ in the future, as the assumption is that extreme weather will only increase.
French language viticulture news stories make for grim reading these days. What’s left of the crop will be harvested late.
So I guess California’s Napa Valley was a winner this year in vineyard climatology.
As for my single, heroic muscadet grape vine, which usually produces around 20-30 kg (45-65 lbs) per year, I don’t expect we’ll get more than a few good bunches this season – the cold, the wet, the wind have all done their part and our vine is the barest it has been in almost twenty years.
I do have one good harvest story this year, though – the lavender I planted last year as a part of a bee and butterfly section has attracted a healthy colony of bumblebees, who come and harvest pollen every afternoon. Their loud communal buzz fills one side of the garden, an industrious song for the summer heat.
There are around 30-40 bumblebees in my lavender bushes this year – most colonies only number 50 or less, so I’m assuming an entire nest has taken up residence nearby.
Photo: PK Read