Spain vintage 2019 – from drought to floods

With harvest already completed in Malaga on the 25th August, we thought it a good moment to catch up on the quality of this year’s growing season with our winery partners.

In DO Cava, harvest started in mid-August amid protests by growers over low grape prices, with the big wineries allegedly paying 30% less for Cava grapes than in the previous vintage, a return to prices of around 20 years ago. The major groups are currently in discussions, with growers threatening to strike in early September if an agreement is not reached. In terms of quality, there are some issues with Macabeo as the ripening process slowed down due to excessive heat across Catalunya.

In DO Rueda, harvest commenced with Sauvignon Blanc during the night of the 27 August. The harvest of Verdejo is expected to start during the second week of September. Dry conditions have also led to good quality, although with some rain in late August that helped reduce hydric stress. The crop size has been less affected than in other areas and is expected to be similar to average.

In Rioja, the cycle has been very dry, minimizing the need for chemical treatments. Partner winery Burgo Viejo in Alfaro started harvesting Tempranillo Blanco from their vineyards near the Monte Yerga during the first week of September. With fewer grapes per bunch, the yields will be lower, although the health is great as shown in the photograph above.

In La Mancha, harvesting has started with the crop expected to be half that of last year. Although the quantity is short the quality is said to be good.

In Aragón, there are also fewer grapes per vine and the production is expected to be 30% below last year’s, in line with historic averages. Fernando Mora MW of Bodegas Frontonio expects to start picking during the second or third week of September, and says that although it will be a short harvest, the quality is very good in terms of both acidity and ripeness.

The vintage has been very complicated in Priorat, as Xavi Peñas, manager of Gran Clos winery explained: “The winter and spring were dry with little rainfall and then there were several heat spikes with temperatures of over 40ºC at the end of June and the start of July. Garnacha can cope with these temperatures but in certain areas of Priorat as much as 70% of the Cariñena vines were damaged as the grapes were effectively “cooked” by the heat. In the Gran Clos vineyards we are looking at a loss of around 30% of the Cariñena grapes. So the quantity will be much lower than in previous years. As for quality, it is early to say as we don’t usually harvest until the 15th September to 15th October, in general the dry, hot conditions and low yields mean we will be looking at a ripe vintage with concentrated flavours, although of course, things could change over the next few weeks. We expect to start harvesting the white grapes from the first week of September.”

Although most of Spain was affected by drought rather than rainfall, storms hit the north-western corner around the 9th July with floods across some parts of Galicia and vineyards in DO Monterrei damaged by hailstorms. Storms in late August also caused flooding and hail damage to vines in Arganda del Rey, in DO Vinos de Madrid.

We’ll keep you updated as harvest progresses.