Despite Record Heat, Europeans Happy with Harvest

After a scorching summer that saw record temperatures across much of Europe and wildfires in France, Portugal, Spain and Greece, winemakers in the three largest wine-producing countries are cautiously optimistic about the 2022 vintage. They also believe techniques they have been adopting to counter climate change are working—for now.

The common theme across the continent was heat and a lack of rain. A wet spring gave way to a dry summer, which led to lower yields in most regions. But vintners in many regions still believe the vintage is a promising one, thanks to high quality fruit.

This harvest report is merely a snapshot of leading regions. Stay tuned for future tasting reports for a comprehensive look at the 2022 vintage.


If 2022 is an indicator of seasons to come, then Bordeaux can expect the unexpected. “The season has been out of the ordinary, to say the least!” said Jean-Jacques Bonnie, co-owner and general manager at Graves classified-growth Château Malartic-Lagraviere in Bordeaux. Frost, hail, drought and heat waves buffeted the region, impacting some terroirs more than others and testing the sangfroid of growers.

“Frost in early April in blocks where we always escape it, two episodes of hail which did not hit hard but were, again, unusual,” said Philippe Blanc, general manager at Château Beychevelle. “On the other hand, the growing season was steady and fast but very easy to handle, in terms of disease pressure.”

The dry weather meant many producers could cut back on fungal treatments. And even as the summer was hot and dry, practices adopted in the vineyards in recent years kept the soil moist. For example, cover crops that encourage a living soil and guard against heat accumulation, canopy management that protects clusters with a leaf “umbrella” as well as plot-by-plot viticulture methods.

“It is difficult to explain why the vineyard behaved so well in such extreme conditions. Indeed, our cultural practices promote deep rooting, pushing the vines to cross the gravel and, thus, find freshness in the limestone sublayer, but this is not specific to this vintage,” said Bonnie.

Some soils dealt with the heat and drought better than others, and older vines with developed, deep root systems proved more resistant than younger vines, some of which died. Heavily draining soils of sand or gravel, without recourse to the hydration found in a limestone or clay layer, left the vines to suffer extreme water stress.

“Soils that worked the best would be [the] St.-Emilion plateau on limestone, where vines suffered less. In the Médoc on pure gravel, it was more difficult … it all depended on how deep the clay was,” said Philippe Castéja, president of Borie-Manoux, which owns multiple wineries. “It has been interesting to see the yields differ from one plot to the other.”

As harvest time neared, the main concern was grape maturity. Fine wine requires a balance between sugar and acidity, phenolic ripeness and the complexity of fresh aromas that mark a wine for aging. Cool nights in September allowed grapes to maintain good acidity while finishing their ripening.

“Before the harvest, we were concerned about maturation—too much tannins, will they be ripe?” recounted Claire Villars-Lurton, winemaker-owner of fifth-growth Château Haut-Bages Libéral in Pauillac and third-growth Château Ferrière in Margaux. “In fact, the cold night temperature [at the] beginning of September saved the vintage and allowed the grapes to ripen perfectly well, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon.”

“We had no choice but to accept what nature was sending us: only drought and warm days,” said Castéja. But anyone looking for a bumper crop will be disappointed. Conditions led to small berries with little juice.

Rhône Valley

Rhône vignerons also reported a small but excellent harvest. In the Northern Rhône, spring arrived late, delaying budburst, but summer came fast and hot. Inter…

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Despite Record Heat, Europeans Happy with Harvest  
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