As the rest of the world is still preparing for the 2012 harvest, Texas farmers began picking their fruit as early as two weeks ago (and some even earlier). Even in the warmest wine-growing regions in the world (like Apulia, Italy, the heel of the boot), harvest won't begin for another ten days or so. But here in Texas, with the relentless, extreme summer heat bearing down, fine wine grapes ripen more rapidly than elsewhere.
Nearly all the winemakers I've spoken to agree: While 2012 won't be a bumper crop like 2010, the quality is expected to be even better. Growers enjoyed relatively mild weather in the 2012 vegetative cycle and they were fortunate not to experience a late spring frost (when the vineyards freeze in late spring, the vines' development is stunted and the crop can be diminished significantly, in terms of quantity and quality, as a result).
Asked if recent rainfall worried him, one winemaker told me that he wasn't concerned. The grapes were so healthy to begin with, he said, that he hasn't seen rot or mildew issues as the fruit has been arriving in his cellar (late summer showers can ruin an entire crop if the humid conditions favor the development of bacteria in the vineyards).
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The biggest issue that growers are facing is the current heat wave. They simply can't pick the grapes fast enough and as a result, they will lose some of their top fruit (if the berries "hang" on the vine too long in the heat, their sugar levels become too high to produce with balanced alcohol content).
Fine wine grape growing and winemaking is always going to be a challenging proposition in Texas. But in the wake of the disastrous harvest of 2011 (when prolonged drought and "the hottest year on record" decimated the vineyards), the 2012 vintage promises to deliver some of the best wines ever made here.