Hot Advice? Chill Out

Napa’s Labor Day weekend heat wave has the wine industry atwitter, but cooler heads will prevail
Sep 13, 2017

California vintners have already started weighing in on the 2017 harvest, but I'd caution patience before jumping to any conclusions about the impact of our ongoing wine-country heat wave. Time has a way of healing bruises.

This harvest season has brought unseasonably scorching hot weather, with temperatures hitting 100° to 110° F around Labor Day. Humidity is also creating an environment in which the Botrytis cinerea fungus thrives.

There's no arguing that excessive heat can cause some headaches for vintners. Grapes can shrivel, raisin or split. Volume evaporates, reducing yields. Harvest becomes a sprint. Fermentation space becomes precious.

I measure heat by the number of days I turn on the A.C. For the past decade I've barely used it. But during this recent stretch I left it on all day and most of the night. It's been hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, or even plunk a few ice cubes into your wine.

That latter point seems lost on many people. They ask if it's OK to put ice in their wine, as if it's going to do something more serious than dilute it the same way cubes dilute tea or soda. Ah, common sense lost at the time when we need it most.

Adding ice, by the way, will also lower the alcohol level in your glass, or soften the wine's concentration if you find your wine too extracted to drink when it's 110° in the shade.

The headaches of excessive heat and whatever damage it causes the 2017 vintage will fade. It might be painful at the moment, but by the time the grapes are fermenting, or headed to barrel, the tune will change. 2017 will be much better than it appeared during the heat of the battle. By the time the wines are released, only the best lots will have made it to bottle. These heated moments will be faded memories by the time we're enjoying the 2017s.

United States California Napa Red Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Opinion

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