From the Washington Post: Between the fires and the covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 vintage will go down as the most challenging and frustrating in California’s history. Before the fires, the quality of this year’s output was looking to be one of the finest in decades: Because of a warm, dry spring and hot weather in early August, the grapes had developed complex flavor profiles. For those who did pick grapes prior to smoke exposure and processed them at a winery with consistent power supply, the wines are likely to be exceptional. But this is small consolation for those winemakers who will have nothing to sell. While the numbers are not yet in, some grape growers are grumbling that half of this year’s crop — perhaps more — has been lost. With quality high and supply low, lovers of California wines across the country and around the world can brace for shortages and high prices.
My simple question is this: Could anything have been done to prevent these vineyard fires?
From Esther Mobley of SFGate: California’s 2020 wildfire season will be remembered not only for its destruction of wineries, homes and vineyards but also for another lasting impact: the unprecedented number of California wineries that have decided, due to wildfire smoke, to make far less wine than usual — or in some cases, to make no wine at all.
Just how much California wine will go unmade in 2020 is impossible to quantify right now, as many farmers and winemakers are still assessing the impact of wildfire smoke, which can imbue wines with unpleasantly smoky flavors and aromas, a still scientifically murky phenomenon known as smoke taint.
Still, regardless of any individual winery’s fate, it’s impossible for the industry to read 2020 as anything but a wake-up call. Many winemakers are determined to learn from this catastrophic year rather than despair over lost inventory. The threat of fires and smoke to California’s wine industry seems to be here to stay.
But the issue isn’t confined to Napa and Sonoma, according to Jeff Bitter, president of Allied Grapegrowers, a cooperative of 450 growers throughout the state. With fires affecting wine regions throughout the state this year, there are concerns about the quality of grapes in regions as disparate as Lake County, the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands.
Statewide, around 3.3 million tons of wine grapes will be harvested this year, a year-over-year decrease of about 15%, Bitter estimated. But, he cautioned, that number doesn’t tell the full story: Because the full intensity of smoke taint is not always apparent early on, some unknown percentage of those harvested grapes will later be deemed unfit for a bottled wine.
I don’t know about you, but I am doing the following: I am buying just a little extra of my favorite wines, if the winery is in the smokey areas. And I will continue to focus on my favorites from outside the area, like Lodi, the Central Coast, and elsewhere. But most importantly, I will try some different wines from other areas. What about you?