Sometimes when it rains, it really pours.
Mother Nature unloaded on numerous French vineyards this year. But for wine-collecting clients, it might not be a washout.
The problem with this year’s harvest is that it started early, due to a very long, late winter, says Justin Gibbs, sales and marketing director at Liv-ex, an exchange for investment-grade wine in London.
That put vines about three weeks behind their usual stage of development during the summer. Excessive rain in July was followed by August hailstorms in Burgundy that “literally tore vines to pieces,” says Gibbs. There was no relief from the bad weather during the fall harvest season, either.
“Growers had waited until October in order to ripen their fruit, which increases the risks,” he adds. “And, lo and behold, come October, it was raining, as it often does and, so, they were picking (but) they have diluted, spoiled yields. … We don’t really have firm statistics yet but they believe that Bordeaux’s production will be the lowest since I think 1991-92, which is a very dire yield indeed.”
The French agriculture ministry estimates that this year’s Bordeaux harvest will be down 19% from 2012, according to some news reports. That’s a double whammy for two reasons.
First, it means two consecutive years of smaller crops.
Chris Adams, chief executive office of Sherry Lehmann Wine & Spirits in New York, points out that 2012 also saw a short vintage in several key production areas.
Second, it’s not just a question of quantity.
Gibbs notes that if the available wines were sufficiently high quality, producers could raise their prices in the face of reduced supply.