It is the best of times for wine, the wackiest of times for weather.
The West Coast wine regions have been chilly and none too sunny. First, California’s Central Coast region lost a lot of grapes-to-be. More recently and further north, pollination has been a problem. The National Weather Service says this could be the state’s rainiest June since 1884. Oregon and Washington growers are wondering if it will ever warm up.
But in Champagne, they’re talking about picking in mid-August because it has been absurdly sunny early and often. Some wine operations have even canceled August vacations for their workers. Mon dieu!
Same with Champagne’s neighbor to the south, where it’s been unseasonably warm. As someone from California’s acclaimed pinot producer Rhys Vineyard tweeted recently, “Did we trade climates with Burgundy?”
Then there’s this dispatch from former Twin Cities wine-monger Bill Hooper, now working in German vineyards.
What does it all mean? Well, for one thing it’s good to be living in an era in which overall knowledge abounds on how to deal with difficult weather, both in the vineyard and the winery.
Last year my friend Joe and I were in Napa from May 20 to 22, and everyone was lamenting the cold spring. One morning the mountains were covered with snow — but the vintage appears to have turned out just fine.
Something St. Innocent winemaker Mark Vlossak said earlier this week at an amazing seminar (more to come on that) made a lot of sense to me:
“There is global warming, but more than that there is global weirdness. … Vintage variation doesn’t mean suck-ass vintages and great ones. It’s about style.”
And making the most of what Mother Nature hands you.