Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Final: European 2017 Vintage Report.
The 2017 vintage from most top European producers is now in the US market; in most of the wine producing countries surrounding the Mediterranean, the 2017 vintage was difficult, but an exceptional one, while production volume was low.
The good news; in Portugal, the 2017 Ports have been “declared” for the second year on a row as exceptional wines, something that only happens once or at most twice in a decade (see Port Declaration). In Tuscany, the 2017 second wines of many of the better wineries are receiving higher ratings from wine critics, than the prime labels of the same wineries had received three years before. In Catalonia and La Rioja, even though there was frost and drought, most of the vintage of the better producers is considered “collectible” but because of the low volume, the ex-winery prices are reaching new heights.
On the other hand, German vintners will remember the 2017 growing season for a long time — though most would like to forget it, especially vintners in the Mosel region. According to Johannes Selbach, an early hard spring frost and a hot summer brought difficult conditions to many of the better vineyards around Bernkastel, the producing region that grows the best Rieslings; the resulting wine volume is low, though the quality is high.
The French agriculture ministry reported that the 2017 vintage is 19% down in volume vs. the 2016 and 18% down on a five-year average. This is the smallest French vintage on record. Bordeaux recorded some of the earliest harvest dates in some areas that year. The heat wave and low rainfall increased the speed of ripening, while April frosts devastated vineyards in almost all regions, with only Medoc on the left bank being a notable exception. The right bank appellations of St-Émilion and Pomerol were particularly badly affected with must volumes down by up to 50% in some areas; but the grapes that survived are generally of high quality.
In Greece there was a general 6% decrease in the quality wine volume; the intense summer heat restricted yields and proved challenging for early-picked red grapes. However, late-ripening varieties such as Xinomavro benefited from a cool September. On Santorini, the best wines are still made from basket-trained Assyrtiko vines, where the woven branches on the outside protected the grape bunches inside from the worst effects of the sun.
In Tokaji, Hungary, 2017 is a good vintage for both dry and sweet wines. Even though the quantity is small, the quality especially for the sweet wines is exceptional and a number of producers may even produce rare Single Vineyard Aszu.
In Croatia, summer was very warm and dry but September 2017 saw a year’s worth of rain in one month, making harvesting difficult. Red wines of this vintage have less body than average and have developed much more slowly. The white wines developed well, however, and are looking to be of high quality.
For most wine lovers, the 2017 vintage is going to bring a surfeit of riches, but with considerable higher pricing!
To your health!
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