Vendimia caja Viña Elena

Spain’s 2020 vintage – the most complicated ever?

Harvest has already started across many areas of Spain, with Cataluña and Jerez starting to bring in grapes during the week of the 10th August, and the first white grapes harvested in Rioja in Aldeanueva del Ebro on the 17th August. However, this usually exciting period of the year has been marred by many concerns brought about by the pandemic.

Emergency distillations

You may have seen the recent report on the emergency distillation measures that the Spanish government has put in place that was picked up by the Guardian.

It’s true that Spain’s vine growers are facing a very bleak situation – the global wine market has fallen by 4.7% over the first four months of 2020, representing a drop of 157m litres of wine. Spain is one of the worst affected – 83m litres down, 12% of its volume, compared to the same period of 2019. The government’s response has been to attempt to stabilise prices by offering financial compensation to growers for green harvesting and to wineries for crisis distillation and the storage of IGP/DO wines for sale at a later date.

This policy was validated by a strategic sale of good quality bulk wine to Switzerland that we managed in July. During negotiations the buyer said, “If the deal does not come off, they will send the wine off to be distilled and get the same price.” Shocking, but true.

Reductions in yields

Meanwhile, Spain’s key DOs have reduced maximum yields, most drastically in DO Cava, by 17% from 12,000 to 10,000 kg/ha, and in Rioja, to 5,850 kg/ha, a 10% reduction on the usual figures, whereas in the Ribera del Duero the maximum has been set at 6,900 kg/ha compared to the usual maximum of 7,000 kilos

In DO Rueda a legal dispute is on-going over the reduction in yields. According to Revista del Vino, 18,000 hectares of vineyards have come into production this vintage, which coupled with a fall in sales of 5 million bottles in March, could send prices plummeting. Yet the Consejo’s proposed 10% reduction in yields has met legal challenges by some of the big producers.

Warm and wet weather conditions

In terms of the weather, the spring and early summer were wetter than usual, and as such many areas towards the east of Spain – including Cataluña and Rioja – have suffered from outbreaks of mildew.

Jordi Amell, general director of partner winery, Castell D’Or, said in July that, “The harvest is not expected to be large as it has been affected by mildew across the whole of the DO Cava, particularly those growers using organic viticultural methods. There is no risk to our Reserva Cavas, which will due to the new legislation will become organic in the future, as our production is large enough to mitigate the risks.”

In Rioja, they are talking about increased prices due to increased labour costs, reduced yields and the treatments needed to reduce the effects of fungal diseases. Around 200 litres more rain fell compared to last year and the growth cycle has been running around 2 weeks ahead compared to usual, with the harvest starting in mid-August, rather than in early September.

As ever, we will update you on the results of the harvest.