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Weather sours Italian wine harvest

18 September 2011 No Comment

ITALY is set for one of its smallest wine harvests after an arid, torrid summer and will almost certainly cede its title as the world’s biggest wine producer to France.

Growers say scorching temperatures and meagre rainfall have affected crops, but add that predicted autumn rains could save the quality of a vintage that has so far been disappointing.

The exceptional weather brought forward the harvest in most parts of the country by two weeks or more. White wine producers in the north began harvesting in mid-August.

Last year, Italy topped the list of international wine producers, but France is expected to overtake it with a predicted bumper harvest.

A survey released this week by the Italian Wines Union, and a government body, Ismea, forecast production would fall to about 42 million hectolitres (a hectolitre is equal to 100 litres), 10 per cent below last year’s level.

France, by contrast, was expecting a bumper vintage of almost 48 million hectolitres. There, big swings in the weather were reported to have split growers on the timing of the harvest, leading to the possibility of widely varying qualities within the same vintage.

Hot, dry weather dehydrates the grapes, reducing the yield. But it also generates proportionately more sugar in the fruit and can produce excellent vintages.

”It means less, but better, will be drunk,” declared Lamberto Vallarino Gancia, the president of another body representing the Italian wine business, Federvini.

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