Serious Drinking: Harvest 2012, in California + Everywhere Else

Spanish vines
Spanish vines
P. Comiskey

Next week's Serious Drinking column is devoted to chardonnay, an often maligned but nonetheless wildly popular grape variety in California, the most ubiquitous in the state. Of course the grape originates in France, specifically Burgundy, where it was isolated and called Pineau Chardonnay, probably in or near the village by the same name in the department of the Macon, southern Burgundy.

They're not going to be singing the praises of its namesake grape in 2012. In Europe, 2012 will go down as one of the worst vintages in modern memory. Crop levels are down as much as 25% from last year; across the 27 countries of the EU the loss averages greater than 10%. (Many, though, report that the quality of what has remained is very high.)

The culprit was weather; the entire continent experienced record drought levels in the early part of the growing season; in France, rain and hail damaged an already frail crop-set, with the Champagne and Burgundy regions -- home to much of the country's great chardonnay vineyards -- hardest hit.

The poor vintage in the EU, coupled with poor harvests reported in other parts of the world (notably Argentina, where strong winds and rain in the early part of the season led to a poor fruit-set, lowering average yields by 25%) have analysts predicting a shortage of wine in the coming year. With demand holding steady, a price rise seems inevitable: will 2-Buck Chuck require a dollar surcharge? Possibly not. As we reported here a few weeks ago, after two very cold and difficult vintages in 2010 and 2011, 2012 was an outstanding vintage in California, Washington, and Oregon.

But with dramatic fluctuations from season to season, and the dramatic weather events punctuating many vintages, it seems that the wine industry is still coming to terms with the dire realities wrought by global warming.

And in related news:

Serious Drinking: The 2012 California Wine Harvest

Hope for Zinfandel: 1999 Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs

Serious Drinking: Peel Me A Grape

Patrick Comiskey, our drinks columnist, blogs at and tweets at @patcisco. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

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