Last year was a plentiful and relatively trouble-free vintage with 76.4 million kilos arriving at the presses in a healthy condition, but this year has been more difficult with unusual weather conditions. Winter and early spring were much drier than usual, until the unexpected torrential downpours of early May. Despite their ferocity, it has still been a drier year than usual with about 500 litres per square metre of rainfall rather than the usual average of just over 600.
The heavy rainfall was followed by hot sunny conditions creating high relative humidity and the perfect conditions for the mildew fungus. Vineyards situated near the coast, where humidity is naturally higher, were the most affected and yields will therefore be lower there. The hot, dry Levante wind, which is normally unwelcome for its drying effect on the grapes and which reduces their yield, has been persistent this year, but actually helped to prevent the mildew doing further damage. Yield predictions for 2016 are much lower than for 2015 as dry conditions, mildew and Levante have all conspired to reduce the crop by perhaps 20% against last year, but it will at least be a healthy one.
The Marco de Jerez has 31 presshouses registered with the Consejo Regulador in the production zone, which comprises Jerez Sanlúcar, El Puerto, Trebujena, Chiclana, Puerto Real, Rota, Chipiona and Lebrija. The inland vineyards around Jerez traditionally ripen sooner and harvesting is already underway both by hand and by machine, much of it at night so the grapes arrive at the press in a cooler state. They have been arriving at about 11.3ᴼ Beaumé, well above the minimum of 10.5ᴼ required by the Consejo.
The first grapes to arrive are used to start small fermentations known as “pies de cuba” which will encourage the larger fermentations as more grapes arrive. The harvest as a whole should be finished by mid-September, and if you can possibly be in Jerez, don’t miss the Fiesta de la Vendimia which takes place 1-18 September. The traditional treading of the grapes ceremony will take place on the 6th September.
19 August 2016