© Wines of Ukraine| Ukrainain wineries continue to suffer following the Russian invasion.
Royal eulogies aside, much of the news this week is that harvest continues apace in Europe, with stories trickling in from across the continent. Despite hot weather and drought conditions, 2022 looks set to be a good year and we've got more on that below. California, meanwhile, continues to battle severe heat with picking underway in nearly all major regions.
In other news, the wine world mourned the passing of Louis-Fabrice Latour, with tributes to the head of Burgundian négociant Maison Louis Latour pouring in from all corners of the globe.
While every week, it seems, brings news of yet another high-end label now being sold through Bordeaux's La Place wine market here are some of the headlines you might not have seen this week:Beaujolais windmill damaged in storm
One of the iconic sights of the Beaujolais wine region – its windmill, or Moulin-à-Vent, in regional center Romanèche-Thorins – was damaged in a storm last weekend. The mill, from which the Moulin-à-Vent appellation gets its name, was hit by a lightning strike last Saturday morning.
"We were having breakfast with all the grapepickers. Suddenly, there was a big thunderbolt. The lights went out and we just saw the mill light up," Pauline Chastel-Sauzet, winemaker at Domaine Château Portier told regional news outlet France3. "There was little doubt it had hit the mill but we didn't think it had affected it such an extent."
Although from the exterior, the damage to the mill (a listed historical building), appears relatively minor with a few tiles lost and out-of-place, the damage inside the building is reportedly more severe.
"Inside the mill, the damage is significant," said the news report, "and the effect of the blast is even more visible: broken wood and masonry litter the ground, shards of glass were thrown everywhere."
Windmill owner Denis Chastel-Sauzet said the six-ton roof had been lifted by the strike and that pieces of debris had been thrown up to 100 meters. He rejected the need for donations, however, saying his insurance had everything under control.Ups and downs in the Mediterranean harvest
With much of the European grape harvest underway, reports from the continent indicate that, while quality is, so far, looking good, the summer drought conditions in southern Europe will have impacted yields. According to French wine news website, Vitisphere.com, Spanish and Italian producers can expect an average drop in yield of around 10 percent.
"Several leading regions such as Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Sicily are expected to show drops of between five and 10 percent – even up to 20 percent in certain vineyards of western Sicily," said the publication. "Conversely, Trentino-Alto Adige, Tuscany and Puglia are expecting slight increases in production."
Indeed, while Tuscany has struggled with drought this year, the region's previous vintage was severely impacted by frost, making this year's uptick something of a curate's egg. More of the same in Puglia where an increased annual production of ten percent this year is reportedly due to the region's ability to irrigate.
Production is also down in Spain which has reported one of the earliest harvests in living memory. Again, according to Vitisphere: "Castilla-la Mancha should be down 2.6 million hectoliters [hl] against 2021, Catalonia some 820,000 hl and Rioja 215,000 hl". Only Extremadura and Navarra are likely to post better results although, across the board, later weather events could still revise these figures.
According to Spanish online news outlet El Diario, some regions could see a drop in production of as much as 30 percent due to the drought conditions.
The south of France too is set to post a drop in production.
"Last year we had a historic frost, this year we will have a historic drought and some will have had historic hail," Jacques Gravegeal, the president of the Vins de Pays d'Oc union, told regional news outlet FranceBleu. He added that while quality would not be affected by the drought, quantities would "certainly" be affected although, again, year-on-year, producers would register an increase in production because "a smaller harvest than last year would have been impossible".
Gravegeal added that maturity was excellent and that the drought and sunshine had prevented any rot or disease in the berries.
Meanwhile, the 2022 harvest season was producing other worries for growers. Christian Marchesini, the president of the ValpolicellaConsortium, told Italian wine news website Winenews.it, that finding harvesters was increasingly difficult.
"The real problem today is in recruiting harvesters who are increasingly difficult to find, due to a strong contraction of operators from Eastern Europe," he said. Domestic employment restrictions were also making it harder to recruit seasonal workers.
The report also added that the Prosecco harvest would be down around 10 percent despite late-season rains offsetting drought conditions.
Jaime Postigo, winemaker and director of Bosque de Matasnos, in Ribera del Duero told El Diario that climate change was "no longer a forecast, it is not an ideology or a trend – it is already a reality".Ukraine battles through "exceptional" harvest
Meanwhile to the northeast, winegrowers in war-torn Ukraine are battling through what, climatically at least, promises to be one of the country's best vintages. Not usually a focal region for harvest reports, the country's invasion by Russia has, unsurprisingly, led to all kinds of additional focus.
In this case, French news agency AFP reported on winegrower and former weightlifter Pavlo Magalias in southern Ukraine's Mykolaiv. Magalias farms vineyards and makes wine at this Olvio Nuvo vineyard on the banks of the Bug estuary as it flows into the Black Sea.
"I'm the winegrower closest to the frontline," Magalias told AFP, adding that his vineyard had found itself, "by chance, at the epicenter of the war". The report also showed a pile of cluster bomb fragments collected across his 10-hectare (25-acre) vineyard.
"...the powerful explosions [from the frontline, some nine kilometers/six miles to the east] barely provoke a raised eyebrow these days among Magalias' workers, who are local residents paid 600 to 700 hryvnia (about 15 to 18 euros, $15 to $18) for half a day's work," said the report.
Reuters also descended on the region, talking to Georgiy Molchanov, who runs SliVino Village winery, also on the banks of the Bug.
"We need to show ... there is a wine for victory," he said. "You have to work, continue living and making plans for the future – and to hope that rockets don't come to your house."
"An hour's drive to the southwest," added the report, "in a largely abandoned Black Sea resort, the much larger Koblevo winery had Russian paratroopers landing in its fields. One of its staff at a sister plant nearer Mykolaiv was killed."
"Many of the winery's workers quit to join the army; others made Molotov cocktails out of empty bottles or crafted the fabric netting used to camouflage the ubiquitous checkpoints that are now all over the country," it added.
There was bitter irony too in that 2022 promises to be an "exceptional" vintage in the region.
"Ones like that, you get once every five years! The grape gives its all and the wine is going to be excellent, maybe with just a powdery aftertaste," Magalias told AFP.
Wine remains, however, something of a minority interest in the country.
"Evgeniy Safonov, who served only Ukrainian wines at his bar in the eastern city of Kharkiv before it was damaged by shelling, doubts Ukrainian wines will benefit from wartime solidarity," said Reuters. "Ukrainian wines, he says, are largely unknown abroad, and even at home most people still prefer beer or vodka."Chinese wine exhibition underway
The second edition of the China (Ningxia) International Wine Culture and Tourism Expo opened in Yinchuan, Ningxia, China on Wednesday. The show boasts an international wine competition, a wine trade fair and seminars on wine production, culture and tourism.
The organizers of the exhibition also said "fifty-four cooperation projects worth a total of 17.3 billion yuan (about 2.5 billion US dollars) have been inked at the expo, covering winery construction, culture and tourism, and wine sales."
"Ningxia has grown into a major wine-making region in China," said a press release. "In July last year, the National Open Development Comprehensive Pilot Zone for the Grape and Wine Industry, the first of its kind in China, was set up, with the objective of turning the region into China's Bordeaux"
"Data shows that the coverage of vineyards in Ningxia has reached 35,000 hectares [86,000 acres] in 2021, accounting for nearly one third of China's total. There are 116 wineries that have been completed in the region, with an annual output of 130 million bottles. Another 112 wineries are under construction."
The show runs until Monday.