21
Jan
10

It NEVER rains in Souther California… HA

Whenever we have storms, severe weather questions inevitably arise regarding vineyards.

Is this weather bad for them? Will it change the crop next year? Etc, etc…

The simple answer is – sort-of. It all depends on what time of year it is, and what’s happening in the vineyards. Wine grapes are hearty, they thrive in stressed and harsh climates. Right now in California there are no worries – the vines are dormant. Rain is only a problem when the vines have lots of fruit hanging, and it becomes a greater problem the closer to harvest it gets.

The biggest threat rain brings is mold. If too much moisture gets on the grapes, and they don’t have time to dry out, mold can start to form. To combat this, most vineyards are sprayed periodically with sulphur to kill the mold. The problem arises when the rain comes close to harvest and sulphur needs to be sprayed. If the grapes are harvested too soon after the spraying, sulphur (smelling like rotten eggs) ends up in the wine. It’s not harmful, just off-putting, and very difficult to eliminate. Who wants to discuss the merits of rotten egg in their wine bouquet?

Another problem with lots of rain just prior to harvest is the fruit can become water-logged. If this happens, the concentration of the fruit is weakened and the year’s vintage may not be as big and complex as expected. Basically Mom (the vine) over feeds her babies (the fruit). We’ve all seen fat, overfed babies… get the picture?

Of course there is the good mold too. It’s called botrytis (noble rot) and will be reserved for another post… suffice it to say, this special little mold helps create the perfect storm for the world’s great dessert wines.

So if you’re in Southern California right now, and watching the rain pummel the region (the  “flood plain” creek I view from my office window looks more like a raging river at the moment… I’m watching carefully), you needn’t worry about the grapes, nor next years harvest. However, if the vineyards all wash away and we have to start all over, well that’s another story all together.

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1 Response to “It NEVER rains in Souther California… HA”


  1. January 22, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Brilliant post! Timely too.


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Patrick Bartlett


A conversation about food, wine, and the art of living well!

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