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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The 2011 Puzzling Grape Harvest in Europe

Throughout much of Europe the wine masters are puzzling over the 2011 vintage, which has been harvested over the last month. They say they have never seen a harvest quite like it.

After a lot of rain last winter — "perfect," says Michel Gassier of Château de Nages in the Rhône Valley of France — a good spring followed, but July and August were rainy and cold. The grape bunches stayed tight, letting in little air circulation. The Syrah grapes in the Rhône were drying out on the vine. The vineyard tenders waited and waited. Now they are rushing.

The white grapes are off the vines, but the wine makers found that while the grapes were barely ripe, the seeds inside were overripe, dark and turning bitter, instead of the almond taste they should have had at this point. The pulp inside the skins is still solid and holding onto the seeds tightly.

The aromatic maturity should match the maturity of the pulp and the skins. But it doesn't, so they'll have to pick their grapes and try to work some magic in the winery.

What does it mean for the 2011 European wines you will be drinking for the next 10 years? No one is quite sure. But they are harried and just a bit panicked in the world-famous vineyards of France, Italy and Spain. Stay tuned.

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