Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sranje, sranje, sranje....

Spent the past few days talking to various winemakers in Eastern Slovenia. Not good news at all. Between 17th and 19th September some 180mm of rain fell, flooding large areas of the country – mainly in the centre and West. The Dept. of Agriculture estimates that between 20% and 100% (depending on location) of crops have been damaged covering 18,000 hectares of land.

Of course, the majority of the vineyards are on hills or higher land, so they escaped most of the actual flooding. But a huge amount of rain fell. What was looking like a very good to excellent vintage is now in great danger of being a washout – no pun intended.

The problem is that the vines start to soak up the water very quickly and the abundant crop of grapes literally start to rupture as they swell with the excess liquid. If it stays cool for the next week or so, there is some hope. If it gets warmer, rot will set in very quickly.

My little “problems” and whinges about Prosecco, or worrying about drinking Cristal pale into insignificance when faced with decisions like: “Do I harvest unripe grapes now – too high acidity, but no rot? Or do I wait another 10-14 days and see if sugars will rise a bit – and rot holds off?” Some decision. One winemaker has a friend who managed to salvage 50% of their Sauvignon Blanc (traditionally earlier ripening) and sold it to the local co-op. When I called they were pressing the other, literally rotten, 50% to try and make some wine for themselves – possibly to sell. Making wine with rotten grapes isn’t great at any time, but when it’s a question of losing 50% of your income, you might as well give it a go.

So it looks like they might just have “saved” the Sauvignon Blancs - almost enough sugar and reduced acidities, but Sipon will be a problem. The grapes tend to be larger anyway and it normally ripens later – the harvest is usually in October. There is certainly some great fruit still hanging on the vines, and the outside possibility of a very small, yet high quality vintage. But the big question is whether or not the grapes will last until then?

Who knows. I’m over there on the 8th to start our harvest and then spend a week working with other producers. I’m sure I’ll learn a huge amount very quickly – but looking back to when we left in the warm August sunshine, this wasn’t the type of learning we had anticipated.

Sranje, or as they say in Ireland…..

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