Europe's late frost stretched to the Iberian peninsula where harvests will be smaller but a cooler summer will favour reds. Portugal escaped the the frosts only for northern vineyards to face summer fires. Find out more in the third part of Imbibe's northern hemisphere vintage harvest 2017 harvest round-up for Spain and Portugal:
The Overview: A small harvest, thanks to the combination of frost and drought
The Good News: High quality reds, thanks to slightly cooler weather in late summer
The Bad News: Reduced quantities could lead to price increases – Cava is a particular concern. And although they came after the grapes had already been picked, early autumn fires destroyed several vineyards in Galicia.
Spain experienced the same spring frosts and summer droughts seen in other parts of Europe, and likewise expects a consequent drop in quality. Late August brought fractionally cooler weather and even a few rain showers, and while much of the white grape harvest had already taken place by this point, there is cautious optimism for the quality of the red wines.
In what was Rioja’s earliest vintage in recorded history, Rioja Alta in particular suffered in the cold weather, with crops reduced by more than half in some vineyards. Thanks to its altitude, Ribera del Duero often experiences severe frosts, but conditions in 2017 were exceptionally harsh. While there’s not going to be much wine – there was also hail in early summer – the quality could be very good. Priorat’s proximity to the sea provides some humidity during the drought and that, combined with the many deeply-rooted old vines, seems to have stood the region in good stead.
Similarly, the Atlantic influence in Galicia tempered the worst extremes of the weather during the growing season, resulting in a small, early but promising harvest. However, disaster struck in October with forest fires hitting vineyards in parts of Rías Baixas particularly badly.
The Overview: Frost-free but northern vineyards hit by fires in late summer
The Good News: Warm, dry weather will favour a small crop of quality reds
The Bad News: Northern vineyards heavily damaged by fires
The same wave of fires hit parts of northern Portugal, particularly Dão, where both vineyards and wineries experienced heavy damage. However, those unaffected by the fires will have a small crop of potentially high quality wines on their hands.
High quality that is, providing they were able to harvest the grapes when they were ripe but not overripe. The early vintage made finding pickers a challenge, and Paul Symington (Dow’s, Warre’s, Graham’s, Cockburn’s etc) reports that he had to recall his winemaking team to the Douro from their summer holiday.
Portugal seemed to escape the frosts that hit other parts of Europe, but the warm weather and lack of rain resulted in a small crop in which reds rather than whites will provide the highlights. Those with older vines will be more content than those with younger ones, which will have suffered in the arid conditions. It may have been just too hot and dry to expect great things from the Alentejo, but if the wines develop as the producers expect, this could be a good vintage for vintage port fans.
Keep your eyes open for the rest of our northern hemisphere vintage reports: France, Italy, Austria, Germany, the UK, Greece, Hungary & Croatia, and California!