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What are the Different Harvest Periods Around the World?

The wine harvest is always a special time of year.

After so much time spent tending their vines, producers have the opportunity to finally start reaping the (literal) fruits of their labours. Picking begins in earnest and producers start to get a real taste of how good their year’s vintage will be.

Of course, it isn’t just producers who celebrate the arrival of the harvest.

All around the world, countries and cities hold special harvest festivals that welcome the arrival of autumn and the coming of the crop. These festivals are often lavish experiences that feature feasts, celebrations, and plenty of wine.

But when does the wine harvest occur?

The answer varies depending on the country. In this article, we explore each major wine-producing country’s harvest period and touch on what we may expect from each with the 2022 vintage.

Italy

The Italian wine harvest is already well underway, having started back in August. Producers expect the harvest to last until mid-October, with some having to deal with later grape maturation due to an extended drought that has affected their crops.

Even so, some producers must wait until the later autumn months to harvest their grapes simply because the grapes mature later naturally. Italy has one of the more interesting harvest seasons because of the sheer number of varieties grown in the country, though all grapes should be well into the production phase once November arrives.

France

The world’s second-largest wine producer has a similar harvest period to Italy. This means the French harvest is already well underway, having started in August. It looks likely to last until the end of October, during which time 750,000 hectares of vines will be picked by French producers.

While drought has also affected the French harvest, producers are expecting a sizeable rebound from 2021. Last year, a series of unseasonable frosts rocked the French industry, leading to a much lower yield than normal. This year looks set to bring about 44 million hectolitres of wine, which is a far higher output. Some even think the country will produce 21% more wine than it managed in 2021.

South Africa

South Africa’s win industry is experiencing a huge increase in popularity, though producers are still trying to figure out how to turn this into the profitability they deserve. Profit margins are thin, coming in at just 1% in some cases.

Typically, South Africa’s harvest takes place between March and April, often extending into May as well. This is because the country is in the southern hemisphere, meaning its seasons are reversed when compared to Italy or France. Sadly, it’s looking likely to be a challenging harvest for the country due to various climate-related conditions lowering yields. However, the upshot is that many producers believe they’ve produced the best grapes they’ve ever grown, meaning this may be a banner year for the quality of South African wines. Perhaps 2022 will be an opportunity to create the higher profits that producers in the country have deserved for so long.

Spain

Another of Europe’s major producers has a similar harvest period to Italy and France. However, autumn tends to arrive a little later in Spain, with the majority of producers only starting to pick their grapes in September. The harvest should last well into October and is set to be marked by several festivals, as is traditional in Spain.

However, heatwaves in the country have led to a slightly earlier harvest than normal, with many producers having to start picking during mid-August due to the early maturation of their grapes. The heat has been so intense that many producers have opted to pick their grapes during the night to avoid the sweltering heat. While the heat hasn’t affected volume to a considerable degree, some analysts believe the combination of heatwaves and drought could lead to Spain’s 2022 vintage being less juicy than it normally is.

The United States

Though America is a huge country, the majority of its wine producers are based in Napa Valley and surrounding areas. As such, the USA’s harvest tends to begin in August and, like in Italy, last until October.

Producers are anticipating nearly 230,000 tons of grapes will be harvested, making 2022 the second largest harvest in America’s history. It’s only beaten by the 2016 vintage, which produced 270,000 tons of grapes. This is great news for American producers, especially those that rely on volume to achieve profitability.

Chile

As a southern hemisphere country, Chile’s wine harvest tends to begin in February and can last all of the way into early May. The country’s many producers tend to allow visitors into their vineyards so they can observe the harvest period in person.

Climate issues have created challenges for Chilean producers, with drought being a continued concern. Sadly, this water crisis looks set to look into 2023 and potentially beyond. Despite forcing some producers to begin picking their grapes earlier than they’d like, early indications are that the 2022 vintage will offer excellent quality.

Australia

Another southern hemisphere country, Australia has a harvest that starts fairly early in the year. The majority of the country’s grapes are picked in April, though some producers start their harvests in March.

The harvest came in a touch below the country’s 10-year average, though producers still harvest about 1.7 million tons of grapes. Many expect the 2022 vintage to offer superb quality, meaning now may be the best time to start sampling some Australian wines.

The Final Word

There’s no denying that 2022 has presented challenges to the wine harvest around the world. Drought and heatwaves have led to inconsistencies in the harvest, with some producers dealing with early maturation while others have to wait a little longer to start picking.

Still, many countries look set to create wines of superb quality in 2022, which suggests we should all be keeping an eye out for the first vintages of the year to arrive in store. Stick with your Xtrawine team and we’ll let you know when 2022’s harvest starts producing wines for you to sample.

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