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Sporadic rainstorms during harvest, a cool summer and a sudden frost in April are among the complications that producers in Spain faced during the 2002 vintage. Some, who anticipated the storms, began harvesting as early as the first week of September, while others, hoping for more sunshine to bring their grapes to full maturity, started as late as last week -- or are still waiting.
"The year 2000 is truly singular and different when compared to past years," said vintner Alvaro Palacios, whose wines include Finca Dofí and L'Ermita and who has vineyards in the Bierzo, Priorat and Rioja appellations. "The biggest difference is due to the annual average temperature -- the lowest experienced in the last 30 years in Spain -- along with a short and cool summer."
The lower-than-usual temperatures slowed the growth of the vines, leading to lower yields, according to Palacios. Some of his vineyards only produced one-third of their average crop.
On the bright side, Palacios said, the lower yields helped concentrate the acidity and sugar in the grapes, and he hopes he "will still be able to offer great wines." He added that harvesting would begin this week in some of his higher-altitude vineyards, so it is still too early for him to make an overall prediction on the quality of the 2002 wines.
In Rioja, Bodegas Marqués de Riscal, which began harvesting last week, also reported lower yields. A drought in March, followed by a sudden frost on April 5, reduced the winery's crop by about 15 percent from 2001 levels.
"The quality of the [crop] at the moment is good, however," said Francisco Hurtado de Amézaga, a winemaker at Riscal. "The maturation during the month of September has taken a constant and progressive rate, facilitated to a great extent by good temperatures. If [this] continues within normal parameters, we expect an excellent harvest."
In Navarra, Concepción Vecino Soto, winemaker for Bodegas Nekeas, was also optimistic about the winery's Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Garnacha and Merlot. "There have been local storms, without great consequence for the grapes," she said. "The quality of the harvest at the moment is exceptional although it is still too soon, as things can still happen."
However, some producers were not so lucky. Peter Sisseck reported that this year he will not be making his tiny-production Dominio de Pingus, which comes from a few acres of very old vines in the Ribera del Duero. He explained that the weather was poor -- no rain in the winter, frost in early May and a cold and overcast summer. That was capped off by serious frost damage in the La Horra area of Ribera, where the Pingus vineyards are located, shortly before harvest, before the grapes were fully mature.
"The grapes were harvested with 13.4 potential alcohol -- not enough for Pingus -- and not very ripe tannins. They are being used for a very rich Flor de Pingus," said Sisseck. In addition to the less-expensive Flor label, he may possibly make a third label.
Other parts of Ribera were not affected by the frost, Sisseck noted, and were still harvesting, though inbetween rains. Quality is good, but not great.
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