California looks to outstanding vintage for 2023
Californian wine producers are excited about the potential for the 2023 vintage with weather conditions this year leading to a bumper harvest.
A growing season that was both unusually long and cool has meant there is optimism that this year could be one of the best. Rain and moderate temperatures have assisted in developing flavourful, balanced grapes, according to producers.
Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, grape grower Andy Beckstoffer, who owns and farms more than 3,600 acres in three Northern California winegrowing regions, said it was “probably the best that we’ve ever had that I can remember in 50 years.”
He said that the canopies were “very big and bright and full” although others, such as Brad Alper of Square Peg Winery in Sebastopol, said it was “too soon to tell”.
The news follows concern earlier this year about a so-called ‘atmospheric river’ in September, when, according to the American Meteorologist Society, a “long, narrow, and transient corridor of strong horizontal water vapour that is typically associated with a low-level jet stream ahead of the cold front of an extra-tropical cyclone” hit wine growing regions.
Concern grew that less hardy grape varieties could be impacted from the rainfall, and disease was possible, although classic California red grape varieties, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, were able to weather the storm.
But producers worked through the night at the time to bring in the more vulnerable Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, before the rain came.
This year’s better harvest follows a couple of challenging years for the wine region. In 2020, there was smoke taint from the significant wildfires, and in 2021 drought impacted the vines. The belief this year is yields will be better than the last few seasons, where they were 20-30% below average for some wineries. The overall 2021 crop was a similar size to the 2020 vintage, which totalled 3.4 million tons – itself a nine-year low for the state.
Last year saw a better harvest, although the California Vintners Report, described 2022 as “a tale of two harvests”, with the heatwave in the week around Labor Day dividing the season into earlier and later picks.
However, there is also concern that a high yield in 2023 was not necessarily good news. This was due to lower global consumer demand for wine, which was resulting in over-production in a number of growing regions, including in France and Australia. The latter has been impacted by Chinese tariffs and the former had to destroy €200m-worth of wine in August.
But Beckstoffer was optimistic for California, with a note of caution: “Everything is looking great, but you need to get it in the tank.”