The 2013 Harvest

by Elizabeth Cooper in Wine & Beer

It is a time that every winemaker anticipates—a culmination of a year in the vineyard at the mercy of Mother Nature. Every year brings new gifts, new problems and new questions. For the wine lover and/or collector, it is important to have some knowledge of the vintage to assist you in your purchases.

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Here is a quick overview of the 2013 vintage across the world:

In California overall, 2013 was a good, solid vintage. Northern California saw almost ideal conditions—long, sunny summer with most picking beginning in early to mid-August. Southern California saw another year of drought-like conditions leading to lower yields and stressing some vines, but overall producing good fruit. Picking began in most places during mid-August and lasted through the end of the month.

Oregon saw an early budbreak with some seriously warm summer days in the 80s and 90s, leading to late summer and early fall rain. Picking began about mid-September and lasted through the beginning of October, yielding an overall promising vintage even with the oddly warm temperatures at harvest. 

In Washington, 2013 stands to be a record harvest for Columbia Valley with yields up 10 percent overall and the harvest wrapping up by the end of October. Across the Columbia River is another story, with slightly lower yields but showing excellent quality.

For Europe, 2013 could not tell a more different story.  As one of France’s most famous wine regions, heavy rains and hail storms led to one of the worst harvests in decades for Bordeaux. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bordeaux suffered greatly: “Mother Nature’s ill temper swept through France’s prestige wine regions, and Bordeaux has borne the brunt of the turmoil. Hail wiped out vineyards in Entre-Deux-Mers, one of Bordeaux’s largest regions, and the government says the Bordeaux harvest will tumble 19 percent this year.”

Burgundy had a similar story: 

“The weather was ready to play a cruel trick on producers – from the northern edge of Meursault onwards north to the border between Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix. The afternoon hail on July 23 was the most devastating of three storms, adding insult to injury, with parts of Volnay and Pommard laid waste for the second year in a row. In the 36 hours that followed, I have never seen producers so depressed, nor have I ever before heard them suggest giving up their profession. It was without doubt the low point of the year. Outside of the hail zone, producers were rather more optimistic: a small but high-quality harvest beckoned for Côte de Beaune whites and Côte de Nuits reds. The weather was generally much drier than the 2012 vintage when producers had to spray, spray and spray again. The lower humidity ensured that disease pressure remained relatively low during the summer months – and, of course, the dry weather encouraged the grapes hit by hail to shrivel, desiccate and drop to the floor. The yields were miserly again, but it looked as though there would at least be something to harvest – albeit in October, the latest harvest in the Côte d’Or since 1991. However, the late harvest was no surprise to Laurent Ponsot: “On June 6, I decided to start the harvest on October 8. We did so and it was just perfect, as usual,” he explains with his tongue-in-cheek smile.” (Burgundy Report; Bill Nanson)

Cshutterstock_105677672hampagne was marked by a cool, rainy spring that set flowering back by two to three weeks in many areas. This pushed harvests back and many of the Pinot vineyards (Noir and Meunier) yielded mildewed fruit. Coming off what appears to be a stellar 2012 vintage, 2013 may be a bit of a letdown to some houses. The quality is still good, but not near the 2012 status. Best bet offerings would be Blanc de Blancs.

Loire Valley experienced the same fate as the rest of France, suffering serious hailstorms and un-repairable vineyard damage. “It has been a quite strange and very interesting vintage,” said Philippe Germain of Château de la Roulerie in the Côteaux du Layon region of the central Loire Valley. Depending on the sub-region and the grape, 2013 marked a vintage that ranged from decent to good in the Muscadet appellation of the Western Lorie Valley to near-catastrophic conditions in Central Vouvray, pummeled by a brutal hailstorm in June, with some growers losing 90 percent of their crop. “This event will mark our spirits forever,” said Sarah Hwang, an owner of Domaine Huët. The vines will take years to recover.

The Rhône Valley surprisingly was spared by the hail storms. The 2013 vintage will be promising while quantities are low and quality is low.

There are so many other regions to cover; but that requires another blog….