‘Lucifer’ heatwave impacts Italian grape harvest

A summer heatwave sweeping through Europe, dubbed Lucifer, has prompted some of the earliest grape harvests seen in Italy for decades, with temperatures soaring to 47 degrees following months of drought.

Some sparkling wine producers in northern Italy have started harvesting grapes 12 days earlier than normal, with winemakers in Franciacorta, in Lombardy, beginning their wine harvest on 3 August. Ordinarily, the harvest would not start until 15 August.

Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement – an organisation that promotes local food and traditional cooking – told La Stampa newspaper that the grape harvest had never before “in living memory” started before 15 August.

In Franciacorta, the harvest is expected to be down by as much as 30%, with the heatwave compounding the impact of “bizarre” weather and spring frosts earlier in the season.

Droughts in Chianti and other denominations in Tuscany over the summer have also impacted this year’s Italian harvest, causing volumes to fall by around 20-30%.

Overall, Italy’s 2017 harvest is expected to be down by around 10 to 15%, according to Italian farmers association Coldiretti.

“Much will depend on the months of August and September, but the current conditions hope for a vintage of good quality, especially for vineyards that have undergone water shortages or where farmers have succeeded in rescue irrigation,” a statement from the organisation said.

The extreme heat seen this week is in sharp contrast to the severe frosts experienced by much of Europe in the spring, when many producers were forced to deploy thousands of candles in a bid to protect their vines. Bitter frosts swept across much of southern England, France, Spain and Italy in late April.

Earlier this week, warnings were issued to tourists travelling to many parts of Europe, amid the hottest heatwave seen since 2003.

Temperatures have exceeded 40° Celsius in many holiday hotspots, with European weather alert system Meteoalarm issuing “red alerts” for Italy, Croatia and Hungary, among eight European countries.

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