Friday, 18 January 2013

‘Is there a silver lining? No. It's devastating’

Nyetimber, Yquem, Rieussec, Chateau Hourtin-Ducasse in the Medoc… all announced they wouldn’t make any wine from the 2012 vintage. Wickham Vineyards in Hampshire has gone bust – they expected 105 tonnes of 2012 and got five tonnes, and had a shortfall almost as bad in 2011. Arguably they were daft to buy 15 defunct Threshers shops and start a chain called Wine Shak, but that doesn’t take away from the misery of losing a year’s crop.

Arguably also the likes of Nyetimber and Yquem can cope with a dropped year… but then again, it’s still hard. If you’ve been in a wine region at harvest, or around a coop, especially, and seen the vignerons queuing down the lane on clattering tractors with an entire year’s work on the trailer – it makes you realise just how dependent on the seasons the business is.

This is what one Bordeaux vigneron said about vintage 2012: 'It is really quite devastating for us financially to lose such a significant percentage of our harvest after a full year's work, but then the whole team feels it, not just the proprietor. The tractor drivers, the vineyard staff and cellar hands all share the emotional cost of the catastrophe and so we all suffer together.

‘We have worked all year and in all weathers to manage the pruning, the green-works, and to carry out the treatments and so we have incurred all the expenses. There are also no savings in a tough year, as bad weather only means more money needs to be spent in the vineyard, but now our margin has gone as we have so little wine in barrel and cuvee.

‘Is there a silver lining? No, even though we will not now need to buy as many bottles, labels or corks; but how will we supply and keep all our customers happy, let alone the bank manager, who I had hoped would finance a new tractor this year?’