Now that we’re deep into the month of September, the Italian wine harvest is in full swing. The majority of producers have already picked most of their grapes and are moving into the production process. That means it won’t be long before the latest vintages are ageing in preparation for them to reach store shelves.
But what can we expect from the 2022 wine vintages?
As any wine enthusiast will tell you, every year brings with it new challenges for wine producers. Every vintage is different due to these challenges, with some years offering better conditions for creating wine than others. As the Italian wine harvest is well underway, we figured now was the best time to look into what you might be able to expect from the 2022 vintage.
A Lower Yield
A combination of drought and extreme heat have already had an impact on the Italian wine harvest. In many regions, producers started harvesting their grapes up to seven days earlier than they otherwise would as the changing conditions led to grapes maturing earlier than usual.
Unfortunately, these hot conditions look likely to affect the yield of the 2022 Italian wine harvest.
Early estimates suggest that 2022’s yield will be up to 10% lower than 2021’s. This represents a drop to about 45.5 million hectolitres. Though still a substantial amount, this shortfall could have a negative impact on producers that rely on creating wines at volume and selling them at lower prices. Less volume means fewer bottles of wine, which could force some of these producers to raise their prices or face the risk of going out of business.
But it’s not all bad news.
A lower yield is generally good news for the quality of wines produced during a harvest. IN difficult climates, only the strongest of grapes survived. Plus, with fewer grapes vying for limited resources, those strong grapes are able to develop qualities that they might not otherwise have if they’d grown on a completely packed vine.
As such, we can expect the quality of 2022 vintages to be higher than their equivalent 2021 vintages. That’s good news for wine lovers, even if that higher quality may come with the trade-off of having to pay a little more to get your hands on a bottle. Ultimately, that payment issue will come down to how producers manage their output.
Good Practices Bearing Fruit
2022 is far from the first year during which producers have had to deal with intense heat waves. Those who can remember the 2003 harvest will recall that year being especially hot, to the point where the heat damaged the vines of producers who weren’t prepared for it.
Happily, we can report that the heat will have a far lower impact in 2022 than it did in 2003.
Italian wine producers have implemented a range of measures to combat high temperatures. Soil enrichment technology ensures the vines still receive the nutrients they need to create quality grapes. New foliage protection methods are deployed to protect vines against sunburn and transpiration, thus ensuring their leaves can photosynthesize properly. And state-of-the-art irrigation systems ensure that even vines that have to deal with the intense sun still receive the moisture they need to grow healthily.
Of course, these methods aren’t perfect, as evidenced by the 10% yield decrease the 2022 harvest looks set to deliver. But they do ensure the quality of the grapes that vines produce is maintained, even if this requires a sacrifice in terms of volume. As such, we can see the 2022 harvest as an example of how the Italian wine industry learns from the mistakes of the past. 2003’s challenges have been examined and learned from, allowing 2022’s producers to better handle the heat.
Rainfall Will Play a Role
While the heat wave has already had a pronounced effect on the vines, the lack of rainfall is a more serious problem. Italy has experienced very limited rain since the beginning of June. And though August brought some rainfall with it, drought still threatens to have a serious effect on the Italian wine harvest.
These problems affect some producers more than others.
For example, those close to mountainous regions have found that melting snow has allowed them to keep their crops hydrated throughout the dry period. Of those that don’t benefit from melting snow, the producers with the previously mentioned irrigation systems will fare better than those with no rain preparedness systems.
Still, the entire industry likely agrees that some more rainfall would be a good thing for the 2022 Italian wine harvest. However, September isn’t traditionally too wet a month in Italy so we’ll have to wait and see how the weather changes to see if those producers that are gasping for rain will get what they’re looking for.
There’s More to Come
As we’re only halfway through September, there are still plenty of producers who have yet to start their harvests in earnest. Those who specialize in grapes that ripen later in the year may still experience negative (or perhaps positive) effects based on what happens with the weather. Some may even have to adapt to earlier grape maturation than expected, though this is a challenge that isn’t consistent among all producers.
All of this means there’s more to come from the Italian wine harvest. However, what we’re seeing so far suggests a mixed bag of results. Though yields are likely to be down across the entire industry, intelligent weather defence mechanisms seem likely to ensure that quality is up across the board. The 2022 vintage has the potential to be very special, even with the lower volumes of wine produced. As such, we’re expecting a banner year in terms of critical perception, though worries persist for producers that rely as much on volume as they do on quality.
Happily, consumers don’t have to worry too much about these issues. At Xtrawine, we ensure that you always have access to amazing wines from many different producers and vintages. Just check out our collection to find the right wine for any occasion.
I’m a passionate about good wine and good cooking.
I like to keep me updated and share with my online friends my gastronomic knowledge.