A wine river in the making?


Ugni Blanc can produce high volumes if not managed.

It’s kind of odd, isn’t it – there we all were, in a state of lockdown, wondering at the extent of the loo roll run.  (The sensible folk amongst us paid little attention.)  And as we sat in our gardens on the warm spring evenings with just our neighbours to chat to, we were all grateful for the on-going availability of our beloved wine favourites – a far greater necessity than excess loo roll if you ask me!

It’s fair to say the wine industry (us included) worked its socks off to ensure continuity of stock for home sales.  Without pubs and restaurants vying for our attention, home consumption has never been so great.  But it still cannot account for the overall reduction in national consumption and we are now beginning to see the reality of a wine river emerging across Europe.

As the new harvest looms large (some wineries have already started picking), many wineries are reporting surplus wine stocks that they have been unable to sell during the pandemic.   Add to this that the 2020 harvest across Spain, France and Italy is set to be pretty high in both volume and quality and the dilemma of what to do with the excess begins to unfold.  Take Spain as an example, who have reported a potential 14% increase in volumes compared to the 2019 harvest.

Many wineries are reportedly turning excess stocks into industrial alcohol at a cost of millions of Euros.  Much of this may turn up back on the market as sanitizer which, whilst being of some benefit, is heart-breaking for the winemakers.

Then there are the wineries who are at the high quality end of the spectrum.  These wines have the potential for a long and valuable life and nobody in their right minds would want to destroy them.  So space is required – and a lot of it – but where?

And then there’s the thinning, or ‘green harvesting’ as it is known, where the quantity of grapes is literally reduced on the vine.  This is not an uncommon practice and is certain to take place in regions such as Champagne this year.

On the other hand, look out of the window and we see inclement weather which could reverse the problems overnight – a touch of early frost here, too much rainful there and the problem could resolve itself, or at least be semi-managed.

It’s true to say the 2020 vintage will be memorable whichever way it turns out.


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