Spring is in the air and it’s time to start the great game of guessing what kind of vintage it will be. Well, guessing – at first – but, also, following the weather and the vines and tracking their progress. Spring truly sets the pace for a vintage – although summer heat is much hotter it’s also pretty consistent. Spring shows no such regularity. Last year (2013) had some very impressive warm days early – think over 70 in March. It wasn’t hot every day of 2013 Spring, by any means, but it was enough to get the grapes going very early – and they kept that lead all the way to fruit set. 2013 had a verrry early fruit set that means a very early harvest. Which it was and everything looked great.
Well, until that typhoon came through. But that’s another story for another day.
2014…is not anywhere near as precocious. In fact, it’s late. Right now we’re running about 7-10 days behind average. You may have noticed it’s been pretty cool-especially at night. Those cool temperatures discourage the grapes from pushing on ahead.
I like to compare baseball and grapes and, as with April baseball, April grapes are early in the season. There is a long way to go and things can change. We can catch up on heat with just a warm week – much like your favorite team can win 5 in a week in April and all of a sudden lead their division.
Still – early only last so long. Eventually you realize your favorite team really is having a bad season (just ask any Mariner’s fan of oh…the last decade?). So it is with grapes – eventually you don’t catch up on heat and yup, you’re going to have a late harvest.
We’re not there just yet – we’ll know a lot more in about 4-6 weeks. Late seasons also tend to be cool ones and the last two -2010 & 2011 – produced some fantastic wines with bright flavors, bracing acidity and lower alcohols. Classic reds that are built to age a long, long time and vibrant, delicious white wines with awesome acidity. Late harvests tend to be more stressful – cold, rain and shorter days tend to put the pressure on to get everything in – but the wines are worth it. We love cool, late vintages.
Or, ya know, it could get warm and we’ll have a different type of vintage! We’ll have a much better idea pretty soon…