Across the globe, winemakers are preciously guarding the results of their 2014 efforts.
Has it been a good year – one to be talked about with awe in years to come – or one that’s best consigned to the wine spittoons of history?
Here’s Take Stock’s guide to what’s being said about 2014’s wines from the main European producing countries….
For much of the year, France has suffered with dreadful wine growing weather. Too wet when it should be dry. Too dry when it should be wet
and a general lack of sunshine that has hampered grape ripening. However, what was looking like a total disaster was partly saved by sunshine and heat in September – not a moment too soon for embattled growers.
PLB’s wine expert Karen Hardwick says 2014 will see some fabulous wines from Burgundy – but at a price! Three years of poor yields means cellar stocks are low, so there’s not going to be enough to go around. This lack of supply has, in turn, put pressure on regions like The Languedoc, where prices are expected to rise by 20% on whites, and 10% with reds and rosés.
Karen’s hot tip therefore is to look further south – especially for wines from the South West, Bergerac and Ventoux – including her Chateau Eyssards from Bergerac. Picpoul – meaning ‘lip stinger’ is also set to continue to be in demand.
She also says there could be a real opportunity with wine from the Loire, where they suffered less from the poor weather. Many growers are reporting both excellent yields and quality – making them perfectly placed to satisfy the ever increasing demand for quality Muscadets and Sauvignon de Touraine.
Once again weather has had a real impact. Wineries had to battle against mildew throughout the summer, and then, just as they were feeling more cheerful after September sun, rain returned in October – leading to some regions not finishing harvest until mid-November.
For Rioja and Tempranillo wine lovers this is bad news, with the whole production area suffering from particularly wet weather – and all the fungal problems that brings. According to Karen, we can expect prices to be 5 – 10% higher than last year.
Despite all this hard work, many growers are reporting yields up on 2013 and grapes with good sugars and acidity. Look for some super wines from Toro, Monsat and Priorat regions, and there should be no problem in sourcing the Godello and Bobal wines that seem to be gaining more and more UK fans.
And Karen’s top tips? Look out for some great value wines from Verdejo (Rueda) and Mencia (Bierzo) including her Protos Verdejo.
The Douro is Portugal’s most important wine region and a downpour on 3rd July caused a lot of damage. However, once the mess had been cleared up, wine-growing weather improved and picking in the hugely important Douro Superior region was in full swing before the end of August and across the rest of Portugal by mid-September.
Because of the variable weather, 2014 will see better quality wines from Central Portugal where Alentejo producers are happy; limited supplies from Dão (too cool and wet) and some absolutely fabulous wines from producers in the Douro Superior.
Throughout the year, climate change has been the subject on German wine growers lips, with hail, rain and cold being compounded by infestations of fruit flies in southern German regions such as Baden and Pfalz – areas normally unaffected.
According to Reh Kendermann – producers of top selling German brand Black Tower, 2014 has been a turbo-vintage. As with France, September sunshine brought some respite to growers and many growers were predicting yields up on the poor 2012 and 2013 vintages. Harvesting in the key Mosel area started at the very beginning of October, but just as this got underway, the rain returned, with selective harvesting around the clock being the order of the day.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. As with much of the rest of Europe yields are down – especially reds, but, because of the selective harvesting of the best grapes, there are confident predictions of some outstandingly good QbA and Kabinett quality Rieslings. Great news for the On-trade where the accelerating popularity of German wines continues.
Helped by geography, Italian producers have either done well, or struggled. Southern vineyards had a good year, with yields and quality reported as good. Look out for some really competitively priced wines from Sicily and the Puglia and Campania regions of mainland Italy – top tips being Fiano, Greco and Falanghina from the latter.
Northern production areas have fared the same as much of the rest of Europe – rain, cold and rot. Volumes are down over 10% from 2013, so expect favourite wines from Trentino (Pinot Grigio/Pinot Noir), Piedmont (Barberra/ Dolcetto/Nebbiolo) and Tuscan Chianti’s to be more expensive across the board.
Finally to Austria where their most important white wine grape – Grüner Veltliner should have given them an advantage due to it’s resistance to rot. Well, it did, but at the cost of reduced yields. Still, some comfort when compared with Riesling producers – many of whom suffered with bunch rot.
Expect prices to be appreciably higher than last year, but take heart from predictions that 2014 vintages will be fresh and fruity – making for a great drinking experience.
So, a difficult year which will see prices rising. However, with some exceptional wines also being promised, there will always be something to take the pain away!