Wine sector’s productivity will drop 5% due to unexpected weather conditions

  • ECO News
  • 20 August 2018

Wine production is delayed, due to a very dry winter and a quite cold spring. Wine producers in Alentejo were expecting an increase of about 15% in production, but the heat wave 'burned' grapes.

Vines’ growth cycle has suffered greatly from this year’s weather conditions. Likely, production will decrease by 5% because of these changes, with an expected decrease to be felt in Alentejo. Due to the severe and extreme heat wave that hit the country a couple of weeks ago, grapes were boiled, damaging the expectations producers had for this year’s crop.

Vineyards’ growth cycles have been affected all over the country, on different levels, varying from a delay of two to three weeks depending on the region in which the vine is located. The Portuguese Office for National Statistics (INE) announced the statistics this Monday, showing there will be a fall in production by about 5%.

The weather conditions, namely the very dry weather, and the unexpected rainy and cold spring have promoted the desavinho, a phenomenon that happens to the crops causing many grapes to “abort”, which means there is a huge loss of grapes.

Miguel Potes, Symington Family’s Senior Manager Communications, explained on the Symington Family Estates’ blog, (a blog with updates from the viticultural year, yearly harvest reports, assorted announcements from the Port trade and stories from vineyards and the people from the region) that “as well as unseasonably warm, this spring was also very dry due to the overall lack of precipitation. March did manage approximately half the monthly average rainfall but April was remarkable for the near total absence of rain; just 2.6mm was recorded at Quinta do Bomfim where the average for the month is 46.9mm. It was, in fact, the driest month of April since official weather records began in Portugal in 1931. (…) As a result of these climatic conditions, bud-break, which marks the beginning of the vine’s vegetative cycle, began between the 8th and 10th of March.”

This delay is expected to reduce production by about 5%. August and September became, because of these developments, highly critical months for the maturing of the grapes and the quality of the wine.

Wine producers expected a 15% growth, which was destroyed by the heat wave

The effect of the heat wave was felt in one of our most refined products, Alentejo wine. August’s winds, torrid weather, and lack of humidity ‘boiled’ grapes, devastating production. However bad, the conditions for the vineyards are still better than they’ve been over the last three years.

“We were expecting a 15% growth, which will no longer happen because of the severe damage provoked by the sun”, a huge concern for a region that has spent the last three years with severe losses due to water scarcity.

The Portuguese news agency, Lusa, talked to the president of the CVRA (Commission of Alentejo’s Regional Wine Producers), Francisco Mateus, who confirmed on the 8th of August that the grapes had de-hydrated and shrank, almost as if they were boiling, but didn’t know yet which would be the exact effects this would bring to the production. What he was sure of, was that “there would be no 15% growth any longer”, he told Lusa.

Evora-based enologist Óscar Gato, also contacted by Lusa, told the news agency that “some of the wine producers had reportedly already lost considerable amounts due to the heat wave” but admitted that it was by then “too soon to know the actual cost that would represent for the overall production”.

However, last year, according to an enologist from Redondo region, Alexandre Relvas, “things were much worst, as the grapes were suffering repeatedly from a draught that only stopped now; for this reason, there is faith that even with the heat wave there will be a superior production outcome than in the last three years”, he told Lusa.