European wine production plummeted by an estimated 20 percent in 2017 amid adverse weather conditions, leaving most of Europe without enough wine. According to The Washington Post, this was due to warm winters and torrential rains, and wine makers will now have to import grapes in the short term.
But the flood of tannin-rich Mediterranean grapes could be an opportunity for winemakers in the United States and elsewhere, experts say.
Only a handful of wineries along the U.S. East Coast have survived wine’s travails. But American vineyards have adapted to the warm, moist weather and developed complex, nuanced wines – sometimes better than their European counterparts.
“You are seeing unique types of wines being created in the U.S.,” said Seth Dennis, wine program director at the University of California, Davis. For instance, he said, this year’s cooler-than-usual dry summer in California has many winemakers coming up with “a tomato jam-like wine flavor that’s very different from what is normally expected.”
Demand for diverse American wines has been surging as millennials favor wines created in the 1980s and 1990s, with 10- to 15-year-old wines accounting for half of the sales in California, according to the Wine Institute, a trade group based in Sacramento. At the same time, the U.S. has become a net importer of wine. (By comparison, the United States was a net exporter until 2007, according to the White House Economic Report of the President.)
Germany, France and Italy produce most of the world’s wines, but those grape growers also export much of their produce – in other words, they are not as dependent on warm weather as the U.S. or Australia. European wine makers are discovering that trying to beat the weather can have disastrous effects, especially for mature vineyards. “Europeans are going to be impacted a lot more by crop failures than they were even five years ago,” said James Daley, the wine editor at The Guardian newspaper in London.
Daley, who has also penned a book on wine, said that it will be hard for European wine producers to replace their old vines without reinvesting in new ones. However, German wine growers are optimistic about investing in soil health, he said.
“They are incentivized to do that,” he said. “The enthusiasm in Germany on innovation is extraordinary.”
That innovation is evident at Oktoberfest in Munich, where entire beers are made from the bounty of local vineyards.
Last year, the modern obsession with time was widely exhibited by the organizers of the gathering, when they foreswore the use of candles in the tents, a centuries-old tradition.
But that’s little consolation for French wine makers.