The heady aroma of crushed grapes (must, as it is known in the industry) is filling the air of wineries across the Northern Hemisphere. Starting as early as August in some regions, and continuing into October in others (depending on varietal and climate), the 2021 grape harvest is shaping up to be one for the record books—not all of it in a good way.
Trouble began in France with unseasonably warm weather in March, which prompted early buds in vineyards, only to be followed by days of freezing temperatures in April. French authorities estimated that 80% of vineyards were affected to some degree. About 30% of the crop was lost by harvest time.
Some of France's most venerated wine regions suffered loss, including Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Languedoc. The Champagne appellation was hit particularly hard but, because non-vintage Champagne is a blend of multiple vintages, the bubbly will continue to flow.
Across the border in Italy, grapes ripened later than normal in the north and earlier than normal in the south. Overall, grape production has been somewhat smaller than usual, but quality is generally high.
Spain is another major wine producer experiencing a slightly smaller crop than usual but the fruit is especially vibrant. It might seem like a strange corollary, but smaller crop yields are often linked to higher quality wines because stress on vines tends to produce fewer/smaller grapes but grapes with more concentrated flavor.
Back here in the USA, California faced another year of wildfires and scorching heat. Following the pattern in Europe, high temperatures led to an earlier harvest and fewer tons of grapes per acre. While the quality of North Coast wines looks good, excessive heat generates more sugar in the grapes, which can be challenging to wine makers because extra sugar in the fruit translates into higher than normal alcohol levels during fermentation.
Washington and Oregon turned into Mother Nature’s microwave this summer, a recipe for trouble in the vineyards. Fortunately, heavy spring rains had produced heavy canopies (leaves), protecting many of the grapes from glaring sun. Climate related troubles continued nevertheless, as wine makers worry that wild fires may have tainted the fruit with smoke—a real problem for thin-skinned grapes such as Oregon’s famous pinot noir.
Source - https://www.tennessean.com