Harvesting grapes in Castilla-La Mancha / D.O. Valdepeñas

Spain's wine harvest hit by this summer's heatwaves

Production is expected to be down by an average of 15% to 20%, or even 30% in some places.

J.M.L. Toledo

The successive heatwaves this summer are having a negative effect on agriculture and grapes are no exception. The harvesting season is due to begin in a few weeks in all wine-growing areas of Spain but production is expected to be down by an average of 15% to 20%, or even 25% in some places.

It means that this year’s harvest will be significantly lower than the average in recent years, which has been about 42 million hectolitres. “We will have fewer grapes to pick but it will have a positive effect on the markets because the wine will be better positioned and at a good price,” says Francisco Martínez Arroyo, the regional Minister for Agriculture in Castilla-La Mancha, where half of Spain’s wine is produced.

Hydric stress

According to the Asaja young farmers’ association, some regions could lose 30 per cent of their harvest, such as Campo de Montiel in Ciudad Real, where the soil is like clay and absorbs more heat, which stops the vine leaves protecting the grapes from the rays of the sun.

The heatwaves have brought forward the phenological cycle of the vine, causing hydric stress which can alter the way the grapes ripen and reduce production, say sources at La Mancha Denomination of Origin regulatory board.

With regard to prices, they are likely to rise slightly if fewer grapes are harvested but so far wine sales have not been affected by the price increases caused by inflation this year - in fact they have increased rather than dropped. In the case of La Mancha, they have risen by 19%.

However, the situation of a reduced harvest is not expected to last that long. If the summer heatwaves continue over the next few years the crops are likely to adapt so they can survive, say experts.