food & drink

Record grape harvest - for what?

It never rains but it pours. Or, if you prefer, it's the Paddy factor. What should have been one of Spain's record grape harvests will never happen as planned, due to the Covid-19 effect. Usually a bumper harvest would mean millions more bottles to be enjoyed at home, in restaurants, and exported. Instead the general drop in wine sales will almost certainly cause an unusable surplus. In greater sums than ever before 90 million euros will be 'wasted' on distilling grapes to make industrial alcohol or leaving them on the vine to rot. Potentially the 2020 harvest would have resulted in a fifth more wine than previous years, but restaurant sales have fallen by 65% and exports by half since the start of the pandemic.

In many regions, such as Rioja, Rueda and cava, the controlling organisations (Consejos Reguladores) have set limits on growers' production. Regrettably these measures have had the unfortunate side effect of enabling bodegas to screw growers down to even lower prices than previous years.

Another complication is the shortage of labour, in normal harvests provided mainly by pickers from North Africa and Rumania, but this year many of these are afraid of being infected by other workers in the cramped accommodation provided by the bodegas for them.

In Penedés they have other problems. Some crops have been completely destroyed by the worst mildew attack in 30 years. It seems like the normally bucolic life of the winemaker is turning into a nightmare, with no relief on the horizon.