Posted: Sep 15, 2020
In Burgundy, starting in mid-August, masked workers fanned out into vineyards, carefully socially distanced, to begin picking grapes. It was the beginning of one of the earliest harvests of the past 650 years, and it is now ending.
The 2020 harvest looks pretty different in many places around the world, much of it due to climate change: scorching heat and deadly wildfires in California’s Napa and Sonoma; drought and heat waves in France; thunderstorms and tornadoes in Italy.
Add in worry over the global economic malaise, and the 2020 harvest is shaping up to be one of the most troublesome in memory. Covid-19 closed tasting rooms and restaurants. The 25% tariffs the U.S. imposed on English, French, Spanish, and German wines caused exports to drop dramatically, and the tariffs, sadly, will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
As a result, European cellars are full of unsold wine. While 2020’s generous crop is welcome in regions such as Burgundy, the government in Spain is paying farmers to reduce yields through green harvesting, or thinning the number of grape bunches on vines. (The compensation can be up to 60% of the usual price of lost grapes.)
With so much unsold wine clogging up their wineries, some vintners don’t have enough space to age the wine from this year’s generous crop. To make room, some are selling excess stocks in bulk to distilleries at a deep discount to be turned into—ouch—hand sanitizer and perfume.
By Elin McCoy
September 15, 2020
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