Bad weather gives Dutch winegrowers hangover

Winemakers in the major wine countries in Europe are suffering from the more extreme weather due to the changing climate, warns the International Organization of Vine and Wine (IOV) in Paris, which represents the interests of 48 wine producers.

In Italy (the largest wine-producing country in the world), production fell by 9 percent this year compared to 2020, in Spain by 14 percent and in France even by 27 percent. Heavy hailstorms, strong winds or heavy rain in the summer play tricks on winegrowers. In France, night frost in the spring also played a role, which damaged the blossom.

Vineyards in our country

Dutch winegrowers also suffer from more extreme weather and night frost, although this varies greatly per vineyard. “Last year we suffered from the heat and now from the enormous rainfall in July,” says Mathieu Hulst of the Apostelhoeve in Maastricht, where they only make white wine.

“Furthermore, the vines were already sprouting this spring, when there was still night frost, which meant quite a bit of damage,” he says. After that, fewer grapes grew on a truss, so that the harvest is ultimately 35 percent smaller, says Hulst.

A happy accident: because the volume is low, the quality is good, he says. Whether the price will go up remains to be seen, says Hulst. That mainly depends on the higher costs he has to deal with.

wet summer

They also suffered from the wet summer at Wijngaard Saalhof in Wognum in North Holland this year, but on balance they are not dissatisfied here either, says Ada Loos, who has been growing wine with her husband Siem for almost 30 years.

They can make between 6,000 and 6,500 liters of wine this year, compared to about 10,000 liters normally, according to Loos. This is entirely due to the lower harvest of white grapes, because the harvest of red grapes was the same as last year. Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of Saalhof’s production is white wine.

Financial setback

Due to the cold spring, growth got off to a slow start, says Loos. “And in the summer we thought ‘that won’t work’. But in the end we still have a harvest that we are satisfied with.” Because the wine has not lost any quality.

However, she expects there will be a financial setback due to the smaller harvest. The price they will ask will be decided later, but Saalhof determines the prices on the basis of the quality of the wine and not the quantity, says Loos. In other words, because there are fewer bottles to sell, the company will not try to recoup through a price increase.

‘Suffered by extreme weather for 20 years’

According to wine expert Ilja Gort, there have been problems for winegrowers in Europe for at least 20 years. That’s because of climate change. “It is mainly the increasing degree of weather extremes that makes it difficult for winegrowers. Such as drought or huge rain showers in the summer.”

According to Gort, the problem of lower production mainly affects white wine, because it ripens earlier, so that the risk of frost damage is greater if it freezes at night in the spring.

According to him, winegrowers in the Netherlands also have to deal with extreme weather conditions. But because they are small-scale, it is easier for them to take measures, such as tensioning nets if the weather forecast is for hail, according to Gort.

No worries in Zeeland

Not for everyone was a less year. “This year is comparable to last year,” says Johan van de Velde of Wijnhoeve de Kleine Schorre in Dreischor in Zeeland. Only white grapes grow in the vineyard.

The harvest is now a few percent lower, because some grapes were cut away during the wet summer. Fortunately, it was a great fall. All in all, it was exactly the opposite of last year, says Van de Velde. He says he is less bothered by extreme weather. “In the interior you see that a bit more.”

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