Focus: Extreme weather in Italy’s vineyards

Lightning over Lake Garda July 2023
An electric storm lit up Lake Garda on 24 July 2023.

Different parts of Italy – as well as other areas of Europe – have faced severe storms, heatwaves, wildfires and floods so far in 2023, leading to devastation of infrastructure and loss of life in some cases.

In vineyards, extreme weather phenomena have added to winemakers’ concerns around the impact of climate change. Italy’s wine harvest may shrink in 2023, said agriculture group Coldiretti this week, citing recent storms and intense heat linked to climate change.

Extreme weather in Italy: A new normal?

Two anticyclones originating in North Africa – the first dubbed ‘Cerberus’ and the second even more ominously, ‘Charon’ – caused temperatures to soar across southern Europe in June and July, trapped under an oppressive and persistent heat dome.

According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, parts of Greece, eastern Spain, Sardinia, Sicily and southern Italy reached temperatures in excess of 45°C.

On 24 July, a weather station in Sardinia recorded 48.2°C, close to the record-breaking 48.8°C recorded in Syracuse in Sicily in 2021.

The heat came as UN secretary general António Guterres declared, ‘The era of global warming has ended. The era of global boiling has arrived.’

In recent years, droughts and floods have also become more common in Italy. The 2017 vintage was notoriously hot and dry throughout large swathes of the country, while last summer, the government declared a state of emergency following the worst drought in the country’s history to date.

In the spring of 2023, flooding devastated parts of the country, particularly Emilia-Romagna, where half of the region’s average annual rainfall was reported to have fallen in just 36 hours.

A flood-damaged vineyard in Bagnacavallo, Emilia-Romagna. Credit: Francesca Volpi / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Storms hit northern Italy

More recently, in July, severe storms swept through northern Italy.

Trees were uprooted in Trentino-Alto Adige and electric storms lit up Lake Garda on 24 July, the thunder still rumbling overhead well into the following day with outbreaks of hail reported in Friuli, Langhe and Roero.

The impact on vineyard areas remains uncertain. In its harvest forecast, Coldiretti said potential yields looked stable overall across Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto, despite the recent storms.

‘Northern Italy has been hit with a frequency of which there is no memory.’

Elisabetta Currado, wine & marketing consultant at Castello di Gabiano and Villa Cambiaso, both in Piedmont, told Decanter, ‘In a matter of minutes, hail can destroy a crop, sometimes even compromising production for the following years. From early July to the present, northern Italy has been hit with a frequency of which there is no memory.

‘You see these black clouds coming in carrying ice that falls, hitting random areas in spots depending on the currents that are created. It’s just a matter of luck. So far we have seen hail pass us by, but it didn’t hit us; we just held our breath until it passed.’

She added, ‘This summer, hailstorms struck at a stage called pre-closing bunch, and in other cases with the berries almost fully ripe (invaiatura). In half an hour of hail, water and wind, some [producers] were more unlucky – as happened in some areas of the Langhe and Roero, where they completely lost production.’

Eduard Bernhart, director of the Südtirol Wein / Vini Alto Adige consortium, told Decanter, ‘We had some hail… everywhere a little bit, but not huge damage at the moment.’

Mildew pressure

Grapes affected by downy mildew. Credit: Lorenza photography / Alamy Stock Photo

For some vineyards in Sicily, mildew has been a significant issue following heavy rain in May and June. The island claims the largest surface area of organically farmed vines in Italy, which makes disease pressure, such as downy mildew, harder to control, and although the subsequent period of extreme heat saved bunches,…

Source :

Focus: Extreme weather in Italy’s vineyards Focus: Extreme weather in Italy’s vineyards *Focus: Extreme weather in Italy’s vineyards