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A severe heat-wave that meteorologists have named “Lucifer” is causing some serious problems for Italy’s vineyards.

The high temperatures, which have seen thermometer peaking at 40ºC+ (over 100ºF) are a grave concern for many of the Italian grape farmers and producers. Accompanied by months of drought, this weather has brought forward this year’s harvest by almost two weeks. 2017 is seeing the earliest start to the grape harvest in the last 10 years – as a result, production is also affected.

The harvest in Italy is seen as the biggest in the world (with over 17% of the world wine production), while France, Spain and the US rank after Italy – so this may have an impact on global wine production as a knock-on effect.

“The high temperatures have created a drastic decline in production of about 10 to 15 percent,” said Simone Frusca, a spokesman for Italy’s agriculture lobby.

Violent hailstorms and spring frosts also hurt some of the country’s grapes.  Despite the weather earlier in the year and now this heat wave, many of the country’s producers and vintners are seeing the glass as half-full. The “quantity” may not be there, but they say it could be a very good year in terms of “quality.” That’s because excessive heat has prevented fungus and disease from spreading on the vines. And some Italian towns had occasional rain before the hot weather, leading to more concentrated sugar levels in the grapes.

Another reason winemakers are not completely panicked is technology that helps mitigate the impact of wildly changing weather. “With the technology they have now for wine-making and cooling down grapes, when they make wine and things like that, it’s a lot easier to manipulate… and not suffer a bad harvest,” Roger Brown of Majestic Wines.

Last year, Italy produced about 1.5 billion gallons of wine, and Italian wine sales topped $12 billion. Agriculture industry officials predict the country will retain the title of world’s biggest wine producer because chief rivals France and Spain have also had wild weather.

Source – CBS

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