There’s no denying that the European wine industry has experienced some ups and downs in recent years. This all started in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic emerged and threw every country’s wine industry into turmoil. Producers had to adapt quickly, both to save their crops and to create the wines that consumers love.
Speaking of consumers, their demand dropped during the early stages of the pandemic. With personal finances being a hot-button topic in a world where many were unable to work, producers had to deal with the one-two shot of production challenges and lower demand.
But the collective European wine industry came out on the other side.
When 2021 arrived, it came with renewed hope that wine would see a revival. And it did, to an extent. Consumer appetites began to return as many had adapted to the difficulties the pandemic placed on them. Producers had also adapted, with most having new practices in place to help them create their wines.
It seemed like everything was set for a solid production year.
Unfortunately, the climate had something to say about that. We saw unseasonable frosts spread throughout Europe in 2022, with those frosts devastating many European crops. France took the brunt of the damage, though the effects of these frosts were felt in Italy and many other countries.
Still, that was last year.
In 2022, can we expect wine production to reach new heights? Free of the pandemic and unexpected frosts, you’d assume so. Sadly, it’s looking likely that a decline is on the way for EU wine production this year.
What do the Estimates Say?
First, let’s look at the numbers. According to estimates published in September, wine production in the EU is looking likely to stay somewhat stable in 2022, though with a slight quantity reduction.
This reduction doesn’t affect every nation equally.
For example, France, Italy, and Spain can collectively expect to produce 130.2 million hectolitres, which is a touch above the 128.7 million hectolitres produced in 2021. However, those numbers don’t tell the full story. We mentioned earlier that France’s crop was devastated by frosts in 2021. The estimates suggest that expects production to rise by up to 21% in 2022.
What does that mean in real terms?
France will produce up to 45.6 million hectolitres in 2022. In 2021, it produced 37.6 billion hectolitres. Some quick maths tells us the country expects a production increase of about 8 billion hectolitres.
Why is that important?
Collectively, France, Italy, and Spain are estimated to produce 1.5 million hectolitres more wine in 2022 than they did in 2021. But with France accounting for an extra 8 million hectolitres, we’re left with Spain and Italy actually producing 6.5 million hectolitres less than they did in 2021.
That’s not all.
Outside of those three big wine-producing countries, production has generally fallen off. Harvests are already producing reduced yields, with 2022 set to fall below the five-year production average from 2017-2021.
So, it’s good to see that France’s industry has rebounded from a terrible 2021. Sadly, overall European production has declined, meaning we’ll see fewer wines from the EU for the 2022 vintage.
Why is the Decline Happening?
In a word – the climate.
The frost of 2021 wreaked havoc throughout France. But in 2022, we’ve seen widespread droughts and heatwaves, which have come to the fore during the harvest period. Producers are simply finding it more difficult to get water to their crops. What’s more, the droughts have accelerated harvesting for some producers, with others facing a later harvest.
Drought also means that the vines aren’t getting the water they need to produce full yields. As such, producers are generally finding they’re picking fewer grapes per vine, ultimately resulting in fewer bottles of wine produced.
Of course, this is terrible news for producers that focus on quantity.
However, the decline may have an unexpected upside when it comes to quality. Water is a resource for vines. With less of that resource available, vines have to feed their strongest grapes while leaving the rest to wither. The result is often that the grapes produced during droughts are of superior quality, even if there are fewer of them.
So, it seems we’re going to see a combination of lower yields and higher quality during 2022. Now, let’s switch focus to the consumer end.
What Does Demand Look Like?
Lower yields could have an effect on consumers as the demand for EU wines has risen to at least the same level that it was out before the pandemic began. With most countries having successfully rolled out vaccination plans and ceased lockdowns, people are back at work and have disposable income.
Granted, some countries are facing issues with the cost of living. For example, the UK is dealing with issues related to rising inflation and interest rates, coupled with an energy crisis, that could reduce demand.
Even so, we’re seeing demand consistently rise across the entire continent. For example, the 21% growth seen in the premium wine sector during 2021 looks set to continue. With more restaurants and dining establishments reopening, that growth will be fuelled by demand from the hospitality sector as well as individual consumers.
All of this means the EU wine industry faces a tricky time. Demand is increasing while production levels either decline or stagnate. The good news is that it isn’t time for panic stations just yet. The amount of wine produced in the EU is still high enough to satisfy demand, meaning you should still be able to get a nice 2022 vintage at an affordable price when this year’s wines hit shelves. And of course, there are still plenty of wines available from before 2021 that you can sample.
So, what’s happening right now is more of a warning sign to the EU wine industry. Climate change is already affecting production. Measures must be taken to ensure these effects don’t have a drastically negative effect in the coming years. But for now, consumers will be happy to know they can still find thousands of great Italian and European wines on the Xtrawine website.
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