Phew! What a scorcher – but quality high

Organic Vineyards in Castilla-La Mancha – mid summer 2022

Harvest 2022

Grape growers and winemakers across Europe will always remember 2022 for its exceptionally long, hot summer, with little rainfall. After a normal Spring, which meant the vines budded and blossomed well, unaffected by frosts, summer began in earnest in early May and the vines began to develop rather faster than most viticulturists would want as high temperatures and low rainfall persisted for the next 4 to 5 months leading up to harvest 2022.

England

We surely all remember the long, hot, dry summer we enjoyed in 2022. English vines enjoyed it too, once the danger of a late spring frost was over, and well-established vines – those more than about 10 years old – flourished, and produced good yields of high-quality grapes. Younger vines struggled to cope with the lower-than-usual rainfall, as their roots are not as well established or as deep in the ground to seek out every drop of water. But they survived, and overall the harvest 2022 was large with the potential to produce complex and concentrated wines.

Harvest 2022 at Albourne Estate, West Sussex, England
Harvest time in Albourne Estate West Sussex

The grape harvest started in mid-September, around 10 days earlier than normal. Still wines, both white and red, from the 2022 harvest should be particularly good.

Harvest 2022 in England was a successful warm vintage. The quality of white and red grapes means still white and red wines will be good.
Healthy Pinot Noir grapes at Albourne Estate – West Sussex

In quality terms it was reminiscent of 2018 in England and the still white wines produced by some producers that year are still drinking very well indeed, if anything with increased complexity.  West Sussex, Albourne Estate Sandstone Ridge 2018 made from Chardonnay, Ortega and Pinot Blanc is an excellent and delicious example.

a bountiful, quality harvest 2022 in England
Harvested white grapes fill the winery at Albourne Estate

Spain

In England, we had a rather pleasant long, warm and dry summer. But in Spain, the summer weather was extreme, with rainfall less than 50% of normal (and “normal” is quite low!). and days on end of temperatures over 40C. As in England, established vines survived, and even thrived in the conditions, but although the quality of the grapes was good almost everywhere, the yield was around 30% of the norm. This exceptionally hot summer called for good canopy management, as the season progressed, to protect the vines and grapes from high temperatures.

Harvest 2022 - the growing year of extreme heat required continuous canopy management to protect the grapes from the heat.
Summer 2022 – continuous canopy management was essential

As always, some regions and types of wine did better than others. The cooler, damper climate of Galicia in NW Spain did not suffer quite the extreme heat and the Albariño and Godello grapes ripened well without fungal diseases that so often affect this area.

Harvest 2022 was long and hot - from early budding through to a long harvest period.
Inland from coast of Galicia – early budding in DO Bierzo

Also the hot-climate, sunshine-loving red grapes Garnacha and Monastrell thrived, as did organically grown grapes because the strong sun kept pests and fungal infections at bay. Organic and Biodynamically farmed vineyards did well because their soils are also more water retentive and yields are generally lower. This was certainly the experience at Domino de Punctum near Cuenca in Castille-La Mancha.

Further south, In Alicante, Pepe Mendoza, a highly respected viticulturist, reported that he reduces the fruit on the vine in exceptionally high heat summers which occur often in this region; the yields in his vineyards fell by 40% in 2022.  But (he said) this was good as the vines were less stressed and the fruit was high quality.  Pepe Mendoza produces one of the red wines we sell,  La Tremenda Monastrell. Monastrell is the same grape as Mourvedre which plays a starring role in Chateauneuf du Pape.

Harvest 2022 in Rioja
Abel Mendoza – hand-picking the harvest with his team Rioja Alta/Alavesa

High altitude wine areas (Rioja Alta & Alavesa, Ribera del Duero for example) also did well because of their generally cooler temperatures. In Rioja the harvest was one of the earliest on record, starting on 10 August and finishing around mid-October. Similarly in Ribera del Duero the harvest started around 30 August and finished in mid-November.

Harvest 2022 - hand selection of grapes at Bodegas Luis Cañas Rioja Alavesa
Sorting grapes at Bodegas Luis Cañas

Vines in cooler areas reached full maturation earlier than those in hotter areas due to less vine stress and steady, uninterrupted ripening. Rioja achieved a reasonable harvest and the wines are reported to be fruity, structured with slightly lower acidity levels than normal, which may affect ageing of red wines.

Portugal

The picture was similar to its Iberian neighbour; they experienced the hottest and driest summer on record with rains generally 50% of the average. 2022 was a challenging year for most growers. The cooler northern regions of the Minho fared better than the warmer areas of the Douro and Alentejo. Well established, indigenous varieties coped with the heat spikes in July and August. White wines are reported to be good, with slightly less acidity than normal. Red wines are reported to be lower in concentration which means a better year for lighter reds, especially from the Douro.

South Africa

Things were rather different in the Southern Hemisphere. The Cape Town region – where almost all South African wine originates – had a long, cold winter (May – August 2021). Cool temperatures persisted during the summer (December 2021 – March 2022) and so it was a later than usual harvest.

Harvest 2022 in South Africa was relatively cool in the warmer area of Robertson. The quality was high. Chardonnay grapes flourished
De Wetshof Vineyards in Robertson – Chardonnay Vines

That said, slow and steady progress is often good for wines and 2022 was overall a good year, with high quality grapes producing large volumes of very good wines, particularly for Bordeaux type red wines – Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec – and Chardonnay based whites (a good example is De Wetshof Bon Vallon Chardonnay 2022.)

Altitude and cooler micro-climates in Elgin and Elim fared well.  Sophie te’Blanche Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (Elgin) and the finer, more complex Iona Elgin Highlands Sauvignon Blanc 2022 are both now here and showing well.

Harvest 2022 in cool climate area of Elgin in South Africa - created optimal conditions for Sauvignon Blanc - Iona vineyards
Iona Estate in Elgin Highlands – produces world class wines

New Zealand

New Zealand had a “normal” year in weather terms (can a wine-growing and wine-making year ever really be normal?) and there was a good, welcome, plentiful vintage after the low yielding harvests of 2020 and 2021. This means stocks can be increased which – the makers hope – will result in higher sales.

In the vineyard, after an unusually unseasonal and cold February, which impacted a little on flowering, warm temperatures returned in late February through to late March, which in turn led to a healthy crop which ripened well. As a result of a cool February, the grapes had a long “hang-time”, and harvesting stretched to a longer-than-usual period of around 9 weeks.

Marlborough experienced a cool summer period in 2022 and a long hang time for the grapes, producing exceptional Sauvignon Blanc at Wairau River.
Marlborough Vineyards – South Island, New Zealand

A long “hang-time’ is associated with cooler growing areas (such as England) and it allows the vignerons and wine-makers to produce greater variety in what are called the “flavour profiles” of the various vats of fermenting grape juice which gives great scope to the blenders to produce different styles of wine from the same vintage – from light, fruit-driven wines to those with deeper, darker, more intense flavours.

The biggest challenge most growers faced was labour shortages, due not only to closed borders but Covid Omicron which was rampant in New Zealand at harvest time!

Harvest 2022 and three Gold Medals for Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc - it's a stunner!
Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2022

The 2022 in New Zealand could become a wine vintage to remember. In Marlborough, the Rose family achieved an outstanding quality harvest as Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2022, a triple Gold Medal winning wine, demonstrates!

The Rose Family of Wairau River Wines in Marlborough
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