Wild weather threatens wine

Whatever you think about climate change, and regardless of what you think causes it, one thing is sure: Wild weather is threatening the state of world wine as we know it.

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“Extreme weather across many wine regions in 2017 may be more than a blip,” Chris Mercer, a writer for the British wine magazine Decanter, reported last week in an article headlined Extreme weather becoming the new normal – study.

“Weather has become more volatile and more extreme in the past 36 years,” Mercer wrote, quoting a recent report from the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC). EASAC’s report warned that wildfires, droughts and flooding are becoming more common around the world, affecting wine regions globally, “due to man-made climate change.”

Over on this side of the Atlantic, CNN’s Ivana Kotosová examined the cost impact of weather-battered vineyards in a report this week, Cheap wine is about to get a lot more expensive.

Global wine production slumped to its lowest level in 60 years in 2017, she reported, citing data from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine. “The most recent harvest produced 25 billion liters of wine, a decrease from 26.7 billion in 2016 and 27.6 billion in 2015. The decline was driven by weak harvests in key markets including Europe and South Africa.”

As a result of increased demand from the shrunken supply, according to the European Commission, the wholesale price of basic wine in Italy has skyrocketed 74 percent over the previous year. Wholesale prices are up 45 percent in Spain and over 10 percent in France.

Flames engulf California wine country (CNN)

Flames engulf California wine country (CNN)

It’s the same the whole world over, Kotosová reported: “Other regions had problems, too. Wildfires destroyed or tainted some of the harvest in California, and drought harmed vineyards in South Africa.”

Ultimately, we consumers will pay the toll. “Analysts said that producers, dealers and retailers will absorb some of the price hikes, but consumers will end up paying more – especially for cheaper bottles.”

It’s only getting worse. As many of us wonder what happened to spring in much of the Northern Hemisphere this year. Decanter writer Andrew Jefford found a clue in last year’s hard April frosts in Europe, which were due to “a disorderly polar vortex, caused in turn by warming oceans. Such frosts may therefore become a regular feature of European springs of the future, at a time when milder winters provoke ever earlier budburst. This would be a catastrophic combination for wine-growers.”

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Wild weather threatens wine


“Apologies for the phrasing,” Jefford wrote earlier this year, “but 2017 must be regarded as one of the most disaster-strewn years the wine world has endured since the onset of phylloxera. It would be imprudent not to prepare for more of the same. Or worse.”

I’ve been worrying about this since at least the early years of this century. As I wrote, and not for the first time, in October 2006, “It’s mighty hard to be a wine lover in the 2000s and not suspect that something chaotic is going on with Earth’s climate. Wine, after all, as an agricultural product that’s highly sensitive to the weather, makes a sensitive barometer for climate change. Hot summers foster quick and complete ripeness in the fruit, which translates to more sugar. Sugar turns to alcohol, thanks to the magic of fermentation, in the finished dry wine. And it can hardly pass without notice that the past 10 to 15 years in most of the world’s temperate zones have seen a progression of record-hot summers unmatched through the 20th century, and an undeniable trend toward more alcoholic wines.”

That was a dozen years ago, and things have only gotten worse.


Today’s Tasting Reports

Cleto Chiarli 2016 Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Secco Vigneto Enrico Cialdini ($13.99)

Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco

This fine, artisanal Lambrusco is made from Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro grapes. Dark purple, it pours with a frothy mousse that falls back fast. Fruity aromas of plums and prunes on the nose carry over intact on the palate with a fizzy mouthfeel. It’s bone-dry, in pleasing contrast with sweet mass-market Lambruscos, and a distinct but not unpleasant tannic bitterness lingers with notes of dried plums. Light 11% alcohol makes for easy quaffing. U.S. importer: Cleto Chiarli USA, Napa, Calif. (April 26, 2018)

FOOD MATCH: It would be good with tomato-sauced pasta and its region’s iconic prosciutto. Good with spicy fare, it was a treat with a light dinner of uova in purgatorio, the Italian version on the Middle Eastern shakshuka, eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.

WHEN TO DRINK: Even artisanal Lambrusco is not a wine meant to last. Drink up, and watch for the next vintage.

My local price matches Wine-Searcher.com’s $14 average retail. It’s well worth a mid-teens price to discover the artisanal side of a wine that’s usually defined by its mass-market producers.

Here’s the producer’s fact sheet on the Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Enrico Cialdini

Find vendors and compare prices for Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Enrico Cialdini on Wine-Searcher.com.

You can also find distributors in most states of the U.S. via this page from Dalla Terra Winery Direct.

Finally, learn more about Lambrusco Grasparossa, and browse dozens of links to vendors for this dry, fizzy Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna.


Marchese di Barolo 2014 “Maraia” Barbera del Monferrato ($13.99)

Marchese di Barolo

Clear dark purple, this 100 percent Barbera shows garnet glints against the light. Scents of fresh red cherries, blackberries and dried cherries plus a light whiff of smoke carry over on the palate with bright, tart fruit shaped by crisp acidity and soft, fuzzy tannins, with a moderate 13% alcohol. Cherry-berry notes and zippy acidity linger in a very long finish. U.S. importer: Frederick Wildman & Sons Ltd., NYC. (April 21, 2018)

FOOD MATCH: Great with juicy sausages; the importer suggests “pasta with red sauce and light meats” or on its own.

WHEN TO DRINK: There’s no real rush to drink it, but it’s not a candidate for long-term cellaring either. Enjoy over the next few years, assuming you have a cool place to store the bottle on its side.

My local price is just over Wine-Searcher.com’s $13 average retail. It’s a fine value in the lower teens.

Here’s the importer’s fact sheet on Marchese di Barolo “Maraia” Barbera del Monferrato.

Find vendors and compare prices for Marchese di Barolo “Maraia” Barbera del Monferrato on Wine-Searcher.com.

Here’s a long list of links to vendors for other wines from Barbera del Monferrato, as well as information about the region.


More affordable wines

Want tips to more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past few months. Please tell us about your favorites!

  • Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Salta Torrontés ($9.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
  • Caposaldo 2014 Chianti ($8.99)
  • d’Arenberg 2012 McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)
  • Oveja Negra 2014 Maule Valley Cabernet Franc – Carmenere Reserva ($9.99)
  • Côté Mas 2016 “Rouge Intense” Sud de France Pays d’Oc ($12.99/1 liter)

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