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Oregon winegrowers thank heatwave

Winemakers in Oregon have revealed how a recent heatwave has actually been advantageous for them after a slow start to the growing season.

Extreme weather is a climate change consequence that is concerning for growers the world over, however, according to a report from Fox 12 Oregon, the heatwave of the last week has been welcome by wine producers in the US state of Oregon.

A marine heatwave off the Pacific Northwest rolled inland, raising temperatures to around 38°C (100°F) across parts of the US and Canada earlier this week.

Far from stressing the vines, this (brief) blast of high temperatures is helping them to catch up after an unusually late spring, with much of the fruit now undergoing the process of veraison thanks to heat, which is when it changes colour begins to enter the phase of ripening.

Speaking to Fox 12 Oregon, Stoller Family Estate’s vice president of communications Michelle Kaufmann said: “This spring was like one of the latest springs on record. And so, the heat wave we just experienced, actually helped catch us up in the growing season and helped the grapes mature a little faster.”

Indeed, with hindsight, the late spring, which delayed the emergence and development of the grapes, might have been advantageous to the final wine given the summer heat, as Barrel 42 Custom Winecraft’s Nichole Schulte explained: “We were kind of expecting the harvest to start maybe two weeks later than last year. But now, it’s looking like it will start right on time.”

“In super hot years, what we see are more sugar accumulation in the berries,” she continued, “so that leads to a higher alcohol after fermentation, and so that could lead to a final wine that’s unbalanced.”

While it is still too soon to give an accurate assessment of the 2023 vintage, both Kaufmann and Schulte said that wildfires, a regular problem on the West Coast, have not caused issues concerning smoke taint of the grapes.

Oregon is a US state that is quickly gaining a reputation for the production of high quality wines, especially expressions of Pinot Noir with Tuscan powerhouse Marchesi Frescobaldi recently acquiring Willamette Valley’s Domaine Roy & Fils due to its Pinot Noir potential.

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