In 2009, almost every wine growing region dealt with extreme weather challenges. Heatwaves, excessive rain, and weather extremes made the 2009 year tricky for many areas in both the USA and in Europe. Following is a short summary and what might be expected for 2009 vintages.
California growers saw severe drought conditions followed by heavy rains during the harvest. As a result, the early ripening varieties, like most whites and Pinot Noir, did well and were picked at the optimal time for ripeness. Most other red varieties, especially Cabernet, Syrah, and Zinfandel did well if they were picked before the heavy October rains. Those picked after the rains will be a tricky mix of quality and vintage.
Washington state had one of the hottest summers on record. Most growers thought the harvest would bring big, overripe grapes. But luckily September temperatures moderated so the grapes had time to develop sugar. Grapes picked before mid-October, when temperatures fell into the low 20′s, should be decent. Best grapes should be Cabernet and Syrah.
Oregon saw a perfect Spring growing season, followed by a good summer, and warm temperatures well into October. Most growers picked late, so the alcohol content is fairly high. In general though the flavors are expected to be fresh.
In Bordeaux this could be a great vintage year. In fact some growers say the wines are already fantastic even before bottling. The Spring was quite wet and even saw some hail. But Summer weather was almost perfect…warm, dry, and sunny. Sufficient ground water and September rains helped the grapes mature to near perfection, so look for a banner year.
Weather in Burgundy was very hot and humid during the Spring and Summer, so mildew was a slight problem. But August saw below average rainfall, with high temperatures and lots of sun. Dry weather continued up to harvest so the fruit is healthy, with high alcohol levels. But lower than usual acidity resulted in fleshy red grape. The white grapes showed more fruit, balance, and good acidity.
The Champagne region experienced cool night temperatures so ripening was quite inconsistent. August was very hot and dry, so picking began early in September. The end result was healthy grapes with good ripeness and fresh levels of acid.
Like many other regions, the Loire Valley experienced warm dry weather throughout harvest. 2009 could turn out to be a great vintage, with ripe and supple reds and whites. Almost every grower in the region seemed pleased with the harvest and see an outstanding year.
Rhone Valley growers seemed pleased with the harvest, although yields were very low. Spring was wet, but the summer growing season was hot and dry. Most growers harvested early with excellent quality ripe grapes. Should be a good year for Rhone varieties.
Extremely hot dry weather in July, August, and September resulted in good the excellent grapes in Northern Italy. The Piedmont and Veneto regions should show balanced wines. Tuscany faced a difficult growing season, with too much heat and not enough water. In Sicily, rain in September produced a very wet harvest.
Portugal has been the grasp of a 3-year drought, so water supplies are very low. Fortunately the summer was cooler than normal, helping to reduce the stress on the vines. The weather turned hot in mid-August, as usual, so the harvest started early in September. Growers are confident the harvest will produce better than normal wines.
Summer heat took a toll on most regions. In fact some regions began picking late in July. Too early to tell how good the wines will be.