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Grape harvest for white wine in Greece is coming to an end, but winemakers are disappointed – yields have fallen by almost half compared to normal year.
And there are objective reasons for this – there has been no rain since April, and the summer was marked by a record heat. “The last such heatwave was in 1987,” says Elina Dakanali of Estate Argyros. “We saw how the heat blocked development and even burned some grapes,” adds Dakanali.
Winemakers had to worry not only because of the abnormal heat, but also because of uneven ripening, in which careful sorting of berries is essential. “The imbalance and unevenness of ripening was noticed, not only in the same vineyard, but also in single bunches,” says oenologist Nikos Varvarigos of the island cooperative Santo Wines.
Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, founder of Gaia Wines, says yields are 40% below average: “We saw grapes either burned, over-ripe or under-ripe, some quite thick skinned without much juice, so we need to be careful with fermentations.”
Wine Judge, MW Yiannis Karakasis, who this year released the book “The Wines of Santorini”, called 2021 “The Year of the Oenologist” because of the complex work required for breeding and winemaking. “We see lower than usual acidities and higher pH readings,” he notes.
On the positive side, growers have not raised grape prices this year, as they have done almost every year. “I think they finally understood the need to be realistic,” says Paraskevopoulos, as prices per kilo settled at around €3.50. Varvarigos of the Santo Wines cooperative stressed that prices should not exceed that price because overall grape quality was “not good”.
Winemakers across Greece are also wary of the ongoing effects of climate change. In addition to the summer heat, many of the island’s vineyards were affected by hailstorms in May.
In Argolis, on the mainland of the Peloponnese, winemaker George Skouras reports that 2021 was also a difficult year for him, starting with spring frosts and then intense summer heat. “We have had almost nothing,” he says of his vineyards of Chardonnay and Viognier. “Many vines stopped maturation due to heat stress.”
However, 2021 may be more promising for red grapes. For example, in Nemea, according to Skouras, there can be an excellent harvest of Agiorgitiko: “Small and thin-skinned grapes have lots of colour and concentration.”
The red wine harvest will begin in early September.
Prepared by N. Zakharchuk based on decanter.com