The past year certainly showed us the world can turn upside down in a hurry. The wine world is no exception.
COVID-19 disrupted business in multiple ways. It put strains on the labor force. It hammered hospitality industries—winery tasting rooms, restaurants, bars—major sources of winery incomes. Wine purchasing saw a dramatic shift toward the internet versus in-store purchasing.
Fires in Australia and the US West Coast devastated some areas. Smoke taint became an issue. Drought continues in both places, in fact one California expert asserts California is not in a drought. His point—a drought implies less rainfall than normal. Today, low rainfall in California is the normal condition that is occasionally interrupted by a year of abnormally good rainfall.
New Zealand endured climate curve balls, too. First, there was warmer weather that spurred bud break. Then came late frost that damaged tender budding tissue. Then came a heat wave with dry conditions throughout the growing season. The world’s second-largest producer of sauvignon blanc may see production cut by one third. Best to stock up on your Kim Crawford and Cloudy Bay while you can.
This spring saw a late frost in France affecting up to 80% of French vineyards in almost every region. A March warm spell caused early bud break, then came the killing frost. French experts fret the 2021 vintage may be one of the smallest ever—perhaps half of what is normal. The secretary-general of the French farming union lamented: “There have been freezing episodes in 1991, 1997, 2003, but in my opinion [this year] is beyond all of them.” The French government has declared an agricultural disaster.
Such are the perils and vagaries of winemaking. Just a few years ago the big issue was over-production and crashing prices for grapes. Mother nature took care of that the past two years.
• Terra Alpina Pinot Bianco by Alois Lageder, Dolomiti 2019: Taut, lean, crisp, fresh expression of pinot bianco. $15 Link to my review
• 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel-Aged Gold Rush Red 2017: Feel-good, kick-back and enjoy libation. $17-21 Link to my review
• Long Meadow Ranch Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley 2019: Ephemeral, light, delicate; strawberries flit across the palate. $26 Link to my review
• Fort Ross Winery Sea Slopes Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2017: Elegant, refined, delicious; can be enjoyed all by itself. $35 Link to my review
Last round: What do you call a parade of rabbits hopping backwards? A receding hare-line. And now, with that, it is wine time.