At its heart, winemaking is farming. And, at its heart, farming is an inconstant, ever-challenging enterprise. The year 2021 is a case in point.
Some wine regions were historically hammered in 2021. France experienced the smallest harvest since 1957. Spain and Italy saw a crop drop of 10 percent. No small thing. France, Italy, and Spain deliver 45 percent of worldwide wine production. Greece, Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia also reported lower yields.
Northern hemisphere winegrowers have seen production drop three years in a row. Hail, damp conditions that promote mildew in the spring and drought conditions in the summer were the ecological villains in this dark vino drama.
Then there is China. A decade ago China roared into the world wine scene with a proclaimed ambition to dominate global wine production. But, whoa. Whims change in a centrally-managed state. China cut its wine production in half—from 147 million cases in 2016 to 73 million cases in 2020. So much for that domination plan.
That is Chicken Little “the sky is falling” vino news. Fortunately, grape growers in the Southern Hemisphere enjoyed bumper crops in 2021. Germany, Hungary and Romania dodged repellent climate vicissitudes.
Wine vines are lissome survivors. They also grow all over the world between 30 degrees and 50 degrees north of the equator and 30 degrees to 50 degrees south of the equator. That is a lot of territory. It is extremely unlikely for all of it to crash in one year.
That said, wine vine growers worldwide are freaked out by climate change. Growers with exact, precise records dating back centuries know global warming is a real thing they have to deal with. Switch to warmer climate grape varieties. Refine irrigation techniques. Adjust harvest strategies. Farmers, no matter the crop, have been resilient and inventive for more than 10,000 years. The 21st century is just the next chapter in their unfolding drama.
• Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Prosecco DOC NV: Very easy drinker falls on the sweeter end of extra dry. $10-14 Link to my review
• Reyneke Vinehugger Organic Red Western Cape 2018: Polished syrah-led blend gracefully respectful of your palate. $14-17 Link to my review
• L’Ecole No. 41 Syrah, Columbia Valley 2018: Clean, easy drinker from a maker that consistently provides quality. $25-27 Link to my review
• Ram’s Gate Estate Pinot Blanc, Los Carneros 2020: Focused, refreshing, vibrantly tart, surprisingly long finish. $37-38 Link to my review
Last round: How much would a wine drinker whine if a wine drinker couldn’t drink wine. Let’s not find out.