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U.S. Wine Producers Reporting "Epic" 2012 Harvest

Night harvesting of chardonnay in the Carneros region of Napa Valley, 2012
© Napa Valley Vintners/Jason Tinacci | Night harvesting of chardonnay in the Carneros region of Napa Valley, 2012
This year's growing season could not be more different for producers on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

European grape growers might be crying into their wine as they bring in tiny crops, but on the other side of the Atlantic producers are in high spirits, describing this year’s harvest as “near perfect” and “epic.”

The French harvest is predicted to be the smallest on record since 1991, and Spain is suffering from drought, resulting in a crop that will be around 40 percent smaller than last year. Some reports estimate that Italy will see its lowest yields since 1950.

But in the United States, the picture could not be more different. California’s most famous wine region, the Napa Valley, is having a “great year,” according to the local wine industry association, the Napa Valley Vintners. “It’s been a near-perfect growing season,” said communications director Terry Hall. “The weather has been ideal, with warm but not hot days and cool evenings.”

Around 25 percent of the total crop has been picked in the valley, including all the white varieties and pinot noir. The region’s later-ripening red Bordeaux varieties, which represent around 70 percent of Napa's total production, will be harvested over the coming two to three weeks. “People are running around the clock at the moment, but everyone is very excited about what they are seeing,” added Hall.

The story is the same further north in the state of Oregon.

“This harvest has been amazing,” said Jesse Lange of Lange Estate Winery in Dundee. “Epic is the word I used earlier to describe this coming vintage and it’s turning out to be accurate.”

The 2012 season has been one of the driest seasons on record. The long dry spell and warmer than normal temperatures have already led to comparisons with the 2002 and 2008 vintages. Jerry Murray of Van Duzer Winery believes it will turn out to be another 2002. He described the potential of the wine as “Voluptuous, curvy, but still balanced, fresh and elegant. These wines will wear dresses, but in bigger sizes.”

The harvest is nearing completion in Oregon this week and with a low front expected to hit the state this weekend, some producers will be taking the decision to pick before the first rains since July arrive.

Early estimates suggest that Oregon's harvest tonnage will fall from its record of 41,500 tons in 2011 to the high 30,000s this year. In Napa, yields are ranging from average to a little above average after three difficult vintages with reduced crops.



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