The 2013-14 grape growing season has started with a bang with the likely consequence of an early harvest in 2014.
We have just started to bottle some of the wines from the 2013 vintage and already our thoughts are turning to the 2014 vintage as we cannot ignore the green sea of vines flourishing out the winery window.
The winter of 2013 was very short. Sure enough, in the depths of winter it was cold enough – we even had some snow falls. But it was a very compressed winter. It was late to arrive and disappeared very quickly. As a result, budburst in the vineyard occurred about 2-3 weeks ahead of the average timing. Ever since, the vines have been growing at their usual spring high-speed rate. If this pattern continues we are in for an early harvest.
There has been no comfort zone for grape growers and winemakers in recent years. There was ten years of drought and then two years (2011 & 2012) when it felt like summer never arrived – both cool and wet although 2012 was a little warmer and a little drier. Then 2013 – 6oC above the average temperature. What a change of pace! As a result, we had the earliest vintage we have ever had starting in early February and it was all over by the end of March.
The 2014 vintage could be just as early. The start of the season actually reminds me a lot of the 2009-2010 season. It was the end of the drought. The spring was early (although not quite this early), dry, windy and hot. I distinctly remember November being particularly unpleasant, especially for the hot, dry winds. Of course the drought was broken mid-summer with a deluge of rain at Christmas. You never know what is around the corner.
We have a long way to go before the 2014 harvest starts. We have to dodge frost, make sure the soil moisture remains high enough for vines to keep growing through the warm, dry, windy spring. Hope for the odd shower of rain (enough but not too much please!), fend off disease and pests, and then get the grapes into the winery. But if the pattern is being set now, we will be counting on another early harvest with a start in mid-February. Inevitably this will result in the overlapping of harvest with the bottling of wine from the previous vintage in the third week of February. We used be to pretty safe with the timing of this bottling. Now we are not so sure. We might have to start re-scheduling. Crushing grapes and bottling wine at the same time is a bit of a winemaker’s nightmare.