MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Italy’s grape harvest is off to its earliest start in a decade due to soaring temperatures and months of drought causing some drop in production.
However, wine experts say it’s not all sour grapes.
A summer heat wave forecasters have nicknamed “Lucifer” is bearing down on Italy and bedeviling grape farmers.
They’ve jump-started this year’s harvest an average of 10-days early and production is taking a hit.
A spokesman from Italy’s Agriculture Lobby says, “the high temperatures have created a drastic decline in production of about 10 to 15 percent.”
Violent hailstorms and spring frosts also hurt some of the grapes.
Italy’s annual wine harvest is the biggest in the world, and the industry employs about one-and-a-half million people.
Despite the heat wave, wine makers still see the glass as half-full. The “quantity” may not be there, but, they say, it could be a very good year in terms of “quality.”
That’s because excessive heat has prevented fungus and disease from spreading on the vines.
Some Italian towns had occasional rain before the hot weather leading to more concentrated sugar levels in the grapes.
“With the technology they have now for wine-making and cooling down grapes, when they make wine and things like that, it’s a lot easier to manipulate really (tighten) and not suffer a bad harvest,” said Roger Brown with Majestic Wines.
Last year, Italy produced about one-and-a-half billion gallons of wine. Whether connoisseurs can raise a glass to this year’s harvest may depend on what mother nature has in mind in the coming months.
Last year, Italian wine sales topped $12 billion. Italy’s agricultural lobby predicts the country will still be the world’s biggest producer of wine because rivals France and Spain have also had bad weather.