The harvest has been advanced this year about a month in some parts of Spain, reduced by the summer drought.
2022 will go down in history, according to the State Meteorological Agency, as the third year with the greatest drought so far this century. Something that directly affects the vineyard. The harvest has been advanced to about a month in some points of our geography and production has been seen, in general, considerably reduced due to the lack of rain and a summer of extreme heat. However, the processors are optimistic.
The 2022 harvest will not, after all, be a bad harvest. We tend to think that activities that depend on nature, which is equally wise and capricious, are bound to an irrefutable determinism on which the human hand cannot act. And it’s true that sometimes it is like that. Little can be done in the face of hail or frost. But there are also difficult crops, like this one, in which you can act and rebel against circumstances», explains Fernando de Rivera Cremades, director of Pradorey in Ribera del Duero.
«The fruit of the vineyard is not only a matter of chance, with correct decisions, courage and courage, we can get the grapes ready to make great wines, even in complicated years», he says. And this, without a doubt, has been. Things started uphill with the spring drought. She was joined by the first heat wave in the month of June, which fully affected the flowering of the plant», describes.
«The extreme temperatures suffered during the summer period ended up putting pepper to the matter», apostilla. This translates into a short harvest, between 30% and 40% less production, but high quality. Fernando sums it up: «There are no two vintages alike, each cycle of the vineyard, is, basically, a new opportunity to reinvent and grow».
Jon Cañas confirms that it has not been a quiet year. A few days after having started harvesting its vineyards in Rioja Alavesa, the leader of Bodegas Luis Cañas and Bodegas Amaren, spoke with ABC from the concern: «These evenings of 32 degrees have been frightening for our vineyards, who say no, lies, because what we seek is a taste balance and we have had to attack before».
Search for late varieties
Given this climatic trend, the winery is preparing with an increasingly clear commitment to investment in R&D&I, in search of clones and varieties that mature later. After all, «every year is complicated and every year is harvested, as my grandfather said», says Cañas.
Montse Molina, technical director of Bodegas Barbadillo, in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz), helps us to visualize how the harvest went in the south of the country. «We have had a decrease in production due to a lower number of clusters and a smaller size of the grapes, motivated by high temperatures and the lack of rain accumulated in recent years», he says.
These conditions, Montse continues, will not affect both the quality and the quantity of wine available. It is not a year of high grades, except for some ink variety. We have not yet seen the finished wines, but it seems that they will be agile, with good fruit and good continuity in the mouth», he concludes.
From the south, we’re going north. Susana Pérez, winemaker at Bodega Pazo de San Mauro in the D.O. Rías Baixas, confirms that in Galicia the 2022 vintage has been characterized by a sharp decrease in rainfall. We recorded 1,400 l/m2 during 2021, compared to 800 l/m2 this year. The lack of rain, combined with the dry and hot summer we have had, brought the harvest one week ahead of last year. A trend that, every year, is more evident», he explains.
However, Susana is confident: «These weather conditions make the grapes enter a very healthy and more concentrated winery, so we expect a harvest with low yields, very aromatic, fruity and with a freshness less accentuated than other years».
Counteract change with more resistant grapes
Maite Sánchez, winemaker of Bodegas Arrayán, thanks the rains that took place in spring in the area of Méntrida. This amount of water allowed reserves in the soil and allowed the vineyard to cope with the heat of July. «In old vines that are dry the production is good, although the berry is more concentrated than other years; those that have suffered more are those of small berry, such as cabernet or merlot».
His research on indigenous varieties that can resist drought and heat is beginning to yield results, and the winery is preparing to incorporate some of them as a solution to counteract the effects of climate change.
In Terra Alta, the southernmost region of Catalonia, the 2022 harvest has been uneven. The region’s most important area of vineyards after the Penedes has an extreme Mediterranean climate and this summer’s heat waves have taken their toll on the vineyards. «We have had to manage them differently to preserve the quality of our wines», explains Joan Lliberia, soul of Edetària.
«The vineyards that have support irrigation have had adequate production, but the others, young vines in pure rain, have suffered losses of up to 30%». The key, he adds, has been the previous work to increase the foliar capacity of the strains, which has allowed them to preserve the good size of the berries and their characteristic minerality.
Other problems in the north
But the difficulties of this last harvest go beyond drought and heat in other areas of the country. Nacho Álvarez, winemaker of Pago de los Abuelos, highlights the frost that occurred in the Bierzo in March, which already made the grapes scarce. The lack of rain, if any, has affected the formation of clusters. «Our vineyard, already bordering Galicia, is not accustomed to such water stress, the pH soars and we begin to have important acidity decays in some slopes of mencía», he describes.
In our area (Vizcaya), vineyards do not show drought, perhaps a loss of wealth in the diversity of grape quality and an accumulation of work. If last year we were harvesting as an extreme year almost 35 days, with many stoppages, this year we have been about 20», counters Gari Rios, of Itsasmendi. The grain is smaller, he recognizes, but its txakolís maintain a good balance between maturity and acidity.
In the islands, the situation does not vary much from the Peninsula. From Mallorca, Pere Obrador, head of the winery Ánima Negra, also highlights the stress that plants have suffered due to heat and water scarcity and the effect this has had on the harvest.
The harvest has been ahead of us about 10 days, with fairly fast maturations and less production than other years. The grains weighed less and the alcoholic degree was a little higher than normal, but the quality is good, sanitariamente the grape is perfect». The problem, in his opinion, is the radical and unpredictable changes in the climate that are happening in recent times: «The annual rainfall is the same, but it is distributed in very intense rains; in a short time a lot of water falls and is very difficult to face».
Manuel Iribarnegaray, winemaker of Marqués de Cáceres, agrees that, although these circumstances have conditioned the harvest dates, the result has not been as tragic as it seemed at first. «The great health of the year and a careful cultivation in the vineyard, makes us think that it will be a very good vintage both in Rueda, as in Rioja and Ribera del Duero», he predicts.
For this winemaking group, the climatic evolution has forced it to accompany its forms of cultivation and winemaking. «For some time we have opted for indigenous varieties of later maturation for new plantations, cultivation at higher altitudes, selection of plots at higher altitudes and fresher exposures», says Iribarnegaray.
From the Barrio de la Estación de Haro in La Rioja, CVNE has been adapting for 140 years and anticipating the changes that can happen, including the climate. We have seen how vineyards that in the past suffered from cold and wind are now of great quality. In recent years, we have planted vineyards in height, something that two decades ago was unthinkable», he explains.
They have also chosen to use plant cover in the vineyard as a sustainable alternative to the use of herbicides. «It protects against erosion, is a natural fertilizer, improves the quality of the soil and the strain and, therefore, the quality of the wine», summarizes Maria Larrea, technical director of this historic winery. In short, it is a question of «reviewing the past in order to compare what is happening and learn from it in order to know how to act in the present».