One exceptional feature of the world of wine is diversity, a diversity that is evident between regions, between plots, between varieties … and so on until we come to vintages. And so much so, that even within the same vineyard, with its grapes vinified under similar conditions as previous years, the results can produce a totally different wine..
The reason: the weather conditions that vary from year to year to a greater or lesser significant degree.
Well, within this variation, the 2017 vintage is one of those located at the extremes, where conditions have been so far from average that it is worth reflecting on how this has happened and how these conditions influenced the characteristics of the wines..
This year will be remembered as the year of heat and drought, and these features have determined the quality and quantity of the harvest. Let me explain.
Rainfall for the year has been extremely low, having been under 300 mm for the whole agricultural year. This is 15% below the historical average, and at a time when distribution has been unfavourable for the vineyard cycle given that the seasons that ensure the edaphic profile (winter and spring) have been the months to have suffered from the most intense drought..
In relation to temperature, the constant feature has been a higher temperature during all seasons, with the annual average some 2ºC above the historical average..
In particular, the summer months have been hotter than normal, with three heatwaves, one for each month, in which temperatures exceeded 40ºC.
The consequences of these weather conditions have determined the quantitative and qualitative conditions of the wine production.
From the quantitative point of view, the harvest reduction has been very significant. We have had 25% less than the previous harvest and 35% less than a normal harvest. The scant water available in the soil, together with the high temperatures have generated a drought that caused, firstly, lower rate of fruit set and subsequently, smaller berry size.
From the qualitative point of view, the high temperatures have caused an unusual advance of the harvest. We started the harvest on August 11, the earliest date in history, and ended on September 30. Never before has a vintage been finished now during the month of September.
Although the high temperatures brought the harvest forward, they are also responsible – together with the lack of rainfall – for its excellent health, since these conditions completely limited the development of cryptogamic diseases.
The smaller berry size has benefited us with a higher skin/must ratio, and since most of the compounds responsible for quality (polyphenols and aromas) are found in the skins, the resulting wines are more concentrated and aromatic.
Another aspect of note is the higher alcohol content and lower acidity, facts that obviously relate to the heat-drought conditions of the vine cycle, particularly in the phases that take place between fruit set and ripening.
In conclusion, 2017 is a special vintage, marked by heat and drought, perhaps evidence of climate change? Surely yes. In any case, we will have more alcoholic and concentrated wines, with lower acidity and more mature nuances. It only remains for us to now enjoy what the sunshine, water and vineyards have provided to us.