What happened in August 2023 in the world of wine? From the fires to the harvest, to the reflection on glass bottles and labels, here is what you need to know about wine news, in Italy and around the world.
Do you want to not miss anything new in the world of wine? You are in the right place. Here are the 14 wine news of August to know.
1. EMERGENCY DISTILLATION
Announced some time ago, France confirmed the decision to give incentives for the transformation of wine into alcohol to deal with unsold goods in Bordeaux and Languedoc .
The reasons? The abundant harvest in 2022 and the contraction in consumption, especially of cheap labels, have in fact put producers in difficulty.
Then the wine is sent to the distilleries, which separate the alcohol by exploiting the different boiling point.
A little data. The surplus amounts to ~3 million hectoliters of wine (7% of 2022 production). €200 million have been allocated (European funds). For each liter of distilled wine the State compensates a percentage of the original selling price (we are talking about a few tens of cents per litre).
Participating in particular are small producers , who do not have the space and resources to keep large quantities of wine in the cellar.
2. HARVEST 2023
The topic of topics at this moment. Here's how it's going:
2023 harvest in Italy
The harvest began in August and the difficult year is being discussed. Repubblica spoke about the black year for Prosecco: damage due to bad weather and shortage of workers for the harvest. The harvest of the first grapes sees companies struggling to find staff. It is estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 grape harvesters are needed. Furthermore, the high temperatures prevented photosynthesis and the bunches did not reach the desired sugar level. Further damage was caused by hail.
The harvest in Sicily was also affected by extreme weather conditions. The region has experienced a series of adverse weather events, including a heat wave, heavy rain and hail. These events caused significant damage to the vineyards and grape production. Many vineyards reported crop losses and damage to remaining grapes. The combination of high temperatures and humidity has also led to health problems in the vineyards, including fungal diseases. These factors have made the 2023 harvest a challenge for Sicilian winemakers, with expectations of a reduced quantity of grapes available and potential impacts on quality.
They also write about it from outside, here on The Drinks Business.
There is more optimism in France. In fact, the great heat in France has also reduced grape production beyond the Alps - with significant damage to the vines especially in the south of France - but the hot climate could generate a vintage of exceptional quality. We'll see with interest.
3. MASTER OF WINE
Important news: there are two new Masters of Wine: Erin Jolley MW , American, and Andrea Lonardi MW , Italian - they are the latest to have obtained the coveted title.
Andrea Lonardi becomes the second Master of Wine based in Italy , after Gabrielle Gorelli MW achieved the title in 2021. There are currently 414 MW worldwide, spread across 31 countries.
Erin and Andrea join Wojciech Bońkowski MW and Joshua Granier MW as the new 4 MW of the 2023 edition. So far, 502 people have passed the exam since its first edition in 1953.
In English, here .
The Okanagan Valley (Western Canada, British Columbia) is ravaged by wildfires and facing its worst fire season on record, and the latest fire threatens Kelowna, in the heart of British Columbia's wine country.
British Columbia is facing an unprecedented summer of wildfires. There are currently 341 active fires across the province, with 14 of them threatening human life. The largest fire has been ongoing since May, still burning uncontrolled across an area of 5,800 km². Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated across the province, while another 35,000 are ready to leave at any moment.
This series of fires is the second climate-related disaster the region faces this year. During the winter, extremely low temperatures caused damage to the vines, reducing wine yields. It is estimated that there will be a grape crop loss of up to 56% in 2023.
Jancis Robinson writes about it.
Berlucchi acquires Vigne Olcru (Oltrepò Pavese). The Ziliani family, already known for the Guido Berlucchi winery in Franciacorta, has signed an agreement with the Brambilla family to acquire the Vigne Olcru winery in Santa Maria La Versa, in the Oltrepò Pavese. This marks the expansion of the activities of the "pioneers" of Franciacorta into a new territory, known for the production of Classic Method wines. Paolo Ziliani states that the vast experience in the Classical Method derived from over 60 years of activity will help them face this new challenge.
It is talked about for example on Wine Couture .
6. GLASS BOTTLES
In August there was also a lot of discussion about glass bottles, in the sense of wine containers.
In fact, some wine producers argue that consumers should be concerned about the use of glass bottles in the wine industry. The production and transportation of glass bottles generate significant environmental impacts, including high energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the costs associated with glass bottles significantly influence the final price of the wine. Some producers are exploring more sustainable alternatives, such as wine in cans or plastic containers, which could have a reduced environmental impact and contribute to greater convenience for consumers. However, it is also a significant challenge due to the impact on the perception of value and quality associated with traditional glass bottles.
On Forbes .
The European Union is promoting the use of reusable glass to reduce the environmental impact of disposable glass bottles. However, the Italian wine industry is largely reluctant to implement this practice. Despite the environmental benefits and reduced costs associated with purchasing new bottles, many producers fear that reusable glass could negatively impact wine preservation and consumer perception. While others are gradually adopting reusable glass, the Italian wine industry as a whole still seems hesitant to make the switch.
Intravino writes about it.
Jason Wilson wonders if the next debate in the wine world will be yeast information on labels . In fact, a French legislator has presented a bill to label whether a wine is made with commercial yeast. Some producers use indigenous yeasts, others use commercial yeasts for faster fermentation. There is a debate between supporters of labeling yeast information and those who believe it is superfluous. The issue may also be linked to the new European Union regulations on the labeling of ingredients and nutritional information on wine.
A reflection on Wine Enthusiast .
8. FUTURE 40 TASTEMAKERS
The Future 40 Tastemakers 2023 list is out.
The list can be found here .
While their interviews can still be found on Wine Enthusiast , which highlight powerful activism in every sense. Activism to include people of all backgrounds in an industry that is struggling to extend beyond its traditional base, activism for the environment, for others and for workers in the industry, activism for a better future.
9. CLIMATE CHANGE
The climate change challenge for Chile's largest wine producer, Concha y Toro, is not linked to rising temperatures, but to dwindling water reserves.
Chile's central and northern regions, important for wine production, depend on snowmelt-based irrigation to ensure a sufficient water supply for vineyards.
One solution to counteract the decrease in rainfall could be to reduce the viticultural area in drought-affected regions to conserve water for the best areas and to allow a decrease in yields. However, the long-term solution is to move wine cultivation to the southern, more humid region of Chile.
Concha y Toro has shifted production to rainier regions such as Maule over the past 20 years. Climate change has also led to a change in the proportions of grape varieties in wines, with less use of grapes from the increasingly drier regions of the Maipo.
Overall, climate change is having a significant impact on the country's wine sector.
In English, here .
Sweden's (very young) wine industry is taking advantage of global climate change. Rising temperatures are in fact creating new opportunities for wine production in Sweden. Swedish winemakers are planting cold-tolerant grape varieties and taking advantage of lengthening growing seasons. This is allowing them to produce quality wines that are attracting international attention. The other challenges posed by climate change should not be underestimated, including the increased risk of plant diseases.
For further information, here .
Finland also dreams of becoming a wine country by 2028. Despite the cold climate, Finland is trying to develop the local wine industry. Experts are experimenting with new cold-resistant grape varieties and innovative cultivation techniques to create soils suitable for viticulture. The Finnish government is supporting this initiative through funding and research support. The aim is to produce high-quality wines that reflect Finnish terroir and contribute to economic growth. However, there are significant challenges to overcome, such as adapting to climatic conditions and training expert winemakers.
For those who want to know more, read about it here .
10. REGENERATIVE VITICULTURE
Craig Camp interviews an Oregon winery (Troon Vineyard & Farm) that is harnessing the potential of biodiversity through regenerative agriculture to benefit the production of their wines.
Regenerative agriculture aims to restore soil health through crop rotation, animal husbandry, underground carbon sequestration and improved water cycling. Biodiversity is fundamental in this process, because it increases the life of the soil and allows plant roots to thrive.
The biodiversity created by regenerative agriculture helps maintain a balance between beneficial and harmful insects, promoting a self-sustaining system. Efforts to increase biodiversity include installing owl, bat and bird boxes to control pests.
A new citizen initiative in Utah (USA) wants to change state control over alcohol. It is proposed to eliminate most state-run liquor stores, allow the opening of private liquor and wine shops, sell alcohol with more than 5% strength even in some supermarkets, reduce taxes and allow direct shipping of wine to consumers. The initiative is motivated by the idea of making alcohol purchases easier for businesses and consumers. However, there are significant challenges ahead, including state government resistance.
Kevin Dayreflects on Italian DOC and DOCG noting that the Italian wine classification system is facing problems. In his opinion, the DOCG has become too broad and does not always guarantee quality. One solution could be to consider DOCGs as a guarantee of specificity rather than quality. It is interesting to read the discussion that develops abroad on "Italian things".
13. UNPAID TAXES
Well-known French wine giant Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) has been involved in a tax dispute in Switzerland. One of the company's co-founders has been ordered to pay €60 million in unpaid Swiss taxes. Co-founder Benjamin de Rothschild was the subject of a tax investigation which revealed he had moved some of his wealth to Switzerland, thus avoiding paying taxes in France.
14. CHINESE DUTIES
It appears that China is considering lifting the tariffs on Australian wine imposed in 2020 (equal to 218.4%) . This could open up new opportunities for Australian wine exports to China, but there is no official confirmation from the government yet.