It will not be long before we start enjoying the first wines of the 2022 vintage. We have spoken to 20 producers in Spain to find out about the challenges they experienced this year, the style of their wines and, most importantly, how they dealt with record-breaking heat, drought and harvesting times.
Generally speaking, production is down as a result of the drought, but given the lack of humidity grapes were really healthy, although acidity dropped. However, there were some paradoxes. As plants shut down to protect themselves from the heat, they struggled to achieve full ripeness and, in many places, alcohol levels were lower than usual. Master of Wine Norrel Robertson, who makes wines in Calatayud (Aragón) and other locations across Spain, described “optimistic” varieties like Tempranillo, which continues the ripening process hoping to reach the end of the cycle, and “pessimistic” ones like Garnacha, which prefers to protect itself and wait. Clearly, the choice of grape varieties is now greatly based on climate rather than trends.
Many things are changing. In Rioja Alavesa, David Sampedro and Melanie Hickman, of Bodegas Bhilar and Struggling Vines (Rioja Alavesa), reported that while they usually pick according to grape varieties and elevation, this year soils dictated harvesting dates. “Vineyards with shallow topsoil and sandy characteristics were brought in first as they were most affected by the drought. These vineyards had a lower yield in general. The vineyards with silt and clay soil structure are more adapted to drought conditions therefore coped better and were the last to come in.”
Another major issue emerging in such hot vintages is water. This implies managing a scarce resource, considering irrigation to be inevitable in certain situations and/or geographical areas, adopting practices to preserve soil moisture or realising the difficulties of using cover crops in extreme drought situations.
This is what producers from different areas have experienced in the 2022 vintage.
After a dry winter and a mild spring that delayed budbreak two weeks, the spring rain and mild weather accelerated flowering in areas like Rías Baixas and Ribeiro, where, as in most of Spain, the summer was very warm and dry, which helped to preserve the health of the plants. "In Galicia, drought means fewer disease problems, which is important considering that, in our case, we farm organically," explain winemakers Dominique Roujou and Laura Montero. "Perhaps it's provocative, but following the Spanish proverb "año de nieves, año de bienes" (year of snow, year of blessings), we would summarise the vintage as "año de sequía, año de alegría" (year of drought, year of joy). In that sense, it was a godsend and a great contrast to 2021.”
Although some wells in Ribeiro dried up, the plants did not suffer as much from the drought as in 2020 and there were even a few green vines and grass patches on the borders of the vineyards. "Some plots that I didn't rate very highly, and which are usually affected by botrytis, behaved phenomenally this year as the underground water table dropped," says Roujou.
Managing cover crops proved to be trickier than on other occasions. "In Ribeiro they were mowed earlier in anticipation of a drier and hotter summer than usual, but in areas such as Betanzos, where they were mowed later, yields and quantity have dropped,” explains Roujou. The drought this year meant grapes with more skin and less must, acidity and yields, explains Laura Montero, technical director of Viña Mein Emilio Rojo "Our white grapes were harvested before the rain because they were ripe. At first glance, it didn't seem that there were fewer grapes because the bunches appeared compact and healthy, but the berries were 30% lighter than in previous years.”
Asked to assess which varieties withstood the drought best, both mention Treixadura in Ribeiro and late varieties such as Brancellao, which does not ripen well in Ribeira Sacra in wetter years, or Caíño Tinto. Also Albariño in Salnés, where, according to Roujou, there is balance and a very good natural acidity, but with alcohol between 13% and 13.5%, which is high for the area. "As in 2017 or 2020, the wines will follow the style of other warm vintages, generally more direct, pleasant and lush. In Ribeiro, with their wide range of varieties, blends with varieties such as Caíño Tinto or Loureira may help to balance the wines.”
Roujou, who has experience working in the Mediterranean, explains that what worries him in Galicia is the future of grape growing. "Climate change is tropicalising the weather and that means a great deal more treatments than 10 years ago for those who farm conventionally and are looking for yields, and a lot more preventive work in organic viticulture. We will have to become much more professional, the usual practice of weekend winegrowing cannot continue as usual here.”
As in other inland areas, the stifling heat and drought in the vineyards of Monterrei, a dry and hot area in Galicia, shaped the profile of a vintage in which some of the plant's growth was blocked, producing grapes with low alcohol content and weak acidity. "This is a dry area but it had been years since we had faced such an extreme situation. We had to harvest early to avoid raisined grapes, but the first berries that entered the winery had no flavour, they were weak,” José Luis Mateo explains. "I didn't have high expectations, but after pressing I was pleasantly surprised. It's not a vintage to lay down, but the wines of this first stage of the harvest are better than expected, with moderate alcohol and for immediate drinking; they are pleasant wines, but they won't age.”
The rain on 12 September eased things a little. "The plots that were very stressed improved somewhat, but the pH and acidity are unbalanced", explains Mateo, who sees more differences in the reds, which are lacking malic acid and are less incisive. "On the other hand, the vines that retained a little more humidity during the summer got just enough water to ripen and we achieved good phenolic ripening, alcohol, acidity and balance, especially in the whites.”
As he does not like to manipulate the wines in the cellar, he tries to gain balance by blending varieties and vineyards, but he says that the differences are barely noticeable in terms of style and ripeness between his two dozen plots, and that not all of his wines will be released. "In the whites, I have some single-varietal Treixadura from clay soils, which I selected separately, and the rest were blended. I only separated two red plots," Mateo explains.
Despite the extreme vintage, he does not see 2022 as a turning point. "The usual trend now seems to be warm vintages and little rain, but the thinking about the vineyard is already done. I have been reconverting varieties and plots since 2007, changing everything, but the weather always catches you off guard, and this year it was even worse. The main thing now is to look after the soils for the long-term so that they retain as much water and avoid evaporation to help the vines gain a bit more vigour.”
With just 300 mm of rain from 1 October to 31 March and 555 mm in the entire vineyard cycle (the usual hovers between 700 and 900), the 2022 vintage in Ribeira Sacra will be remembered by the four Envínate partners as the driest since they first started working in this area, with some vines being blocked at the end of the cycle due to the heat and drought of the summer. In addition, a heavy hail storm on 29 May destroyed the crop of their Camiño Novo plot, which was still recovering from another storm in 2018, so they will have to rebuild it from scratch.
"We are concerned about the isolated and unpredictable weather phenomena. In the last six years, hail and black rot are increasingly common in the area and this is something we have to take into account when working the vineyard," says Roberto Santana. "In any case, we adapt to the characteristics of the vintage, but what is really tricky to control is the lack of manpower in the vineyard.”
Regarding the harvest and the style of the 2022 wines, Roberto explains that picking was not as early as initially expected and the grapes benefited from the rain in the second week of September, which helped them to grow a bit. "All this heralded a vintage of high concentration and alcohol, but nothing could be further from the truth," says Roberto Santana. "The wines are moderate in alcohol and perhaps more immediate than in other years, but they are expressive and fresh.”
Rather than the excessive heat or the drought, the main problem in this area close to the Cantábrico Sea was the lack of cold weather. "In 2012 and 2017 plants suffered from water stress, but not this year. The absence of cold weather resulted in less diversity because grapes ripened at the same time, especially in the plots that we normally harvest last," Ríos points out. "Yields were not affected, but we had to bring the harvest forward by nine days, to the ninth of September, in order to preserve the freshness".
As a result of these high temperatures, acidity dropped a point and a half compared to previous years, so at Itsasmendi they are ready to shorten ageing times on the lees to prevent the wines, which are full-bodied and structured even at this early stage, from becoming flabby. The flipside is that we picked very healthy grapes, which meant that treatments were minimized in an area where mildew is a regular occurrence.
Faced with this scenario, Itsasmendi is starting to raise a number of long-term considerations. "It seems evident that we will have to plant in cool sites and leave some space for high-acid varieties such as Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng to preserve freshness," Ríos adds, although he points out that these changes are no more than a mere hypothesis for the time being. "2019 was a cool vintage, so we will have to look at it with the perspective of several years before we take any decisions. However, I do worry about the lack of cold. The first frost wasn't until 5 December, when November in Bizkaia is one of the coldest months of the year, and we don't have a solution for that”.
The Riojan producer based in Bierzo describes a cycle of similar vintages starting in 2019 and peaking in 2022, the hottest and driest of all, with barely 460 mm of rain compared to 900 mm in a standard year. "2022 is influenced by the previous vintages, as heat has affected vines for several years. In certain areas of Corullón with poor soils, we lost some old vines but also young vines that were planted last year, despite having been watered weekly [DO Bierzo allows irrigation until the vine’s third year of life]," explains Ricardo Pérez.
Harvesting dates accurately reflect this situation: "In three of the last five years, picking started in August whereas the regular date is around September 7th", he noted. Deciding when to harvest was not easy because grapes seemed ripe but alcohol was low. Finally, alcohol is slightly higher than in 2021, when a similar situation was experienced, but without exceeding 13.5% abv. pH levels are above average -Mencía is usually generous in this respect. Pérez often marvels at the ability of Bierzo reds to age and taste fresh despite their high pH. He finds that tannins are firmer and more present in hot vintages, but as they are well integrated with the wines’ acidity, they act as a good backbone on the palate. For Pérez, the 2022s might be a little heavier on the nose, but they are holding well on the palate.
Beyond soil management and fertilisation, Ricardo Pérez anticipates further research in terms of the canopy because handling the foliage will be key to lengthen the plant's cycle. His conclusion on 2022: "A year that invites us to reflect and to consider working sustainably and organically in the broadest sense".
In Rueda, the high temperatures had a greater impact than the drought. Martina Prieto Patiente sees big differences between the grapes harvested in August, "when they began to lose acidity and concentrate sugars, but lacked phenolic development", and those picked in September, which in the case of José Pariente represented over 90% of the harvest. "Goblet training, California sprawl and irrigation in young vineyards (under 15 years old) were key to keep the grapes on the vines until mid-September so that they benefited from the rainfall that fell over those days and continued to ripen slowly", she explained.
She has no doubts in terms of the varieties: "Verdejo showed why it is the area's main grape; it proved to be fully adapted to the super-continental climate of this vintage; after all, it is a variety that needs time to ripen". There are further interesting insights: "We are reinforcing our search for old vineyards which are better adapted to adversities and, therefore, to climate change. 2022 confirms that in order to obtain complex wines we need to work in different areas or villages, at various elevations and climates and, of course, with different soils. Our worst enemy is the higher pH in musts, which was an ever-present element on this vintage. This is why we embarked on various R&D projects three years ago to study viticulture practices to prevent this trend, which seems inevitable in hot vintages."
Paradoxically, old vines on sandy soils performed better, given their location in an area tempered by the Eresma and Adaja rivers, lower levels of water loss in the vines and the fact that they efficiently release the heat at night. All these factors have allowed to retain malic acid and acidity. According to Martina, gravel soils were more demanding.
As for the style of wines that aficionados will find in 2022, Martina talks about "fine wines with elegant aromas, structure, freshness and a long finish. In our case, it is not an exuberant vintage."
2022 was a record-breaking vintage at Abadía Retuerta: the hottest and driest on record. There were just 163mm of rain, well below the 350mm of an average year. Their heat summation data (daily degrees exceeding 10ºC between April and October) shows temperature increases in recent years with marked peaks in 2017 and particularly in 2022.
Anocíbar drew on his experience of 2017, another particularly hot harvest, to make decisions. He relied mainly on green pruning to leave just the number of bunches that the plant could ripen in such extreme weather conditions, and on "emergency irrigation" to cope with severe heatwaves in May, June and particularly in July.
He also points out that the vines’ performance was somewhat erratic: "Fertile, lower quality plots like those on flat areas close to the Duero River, have performed better than classic hillside terroirs with favourable exposure."
In addition to healthy grapes, the good weather meant that grapes were picked at the right time: "Tempranillo were harvested at 13.7% abv. alcohol (only a week later they would have reached 14.5% abv.) so the fruit will not be too jammy. The other varieties performed well, particularly Garnacha, Malbec and, above all, Syrah, which always surprises us favourably. Being a late ripening variety, Cabernet Sauvignon always performs well in warm vintages", he added.
For Anocíbar, moderate alcohol levels are key: "The higher the alcohol the more difficult it is to finish the fermentation. We didn't want to have long macerations this year; just the opposite, the aim was to balance structure, fine/ripe/integrated tannins, pH and acidity."
The general manager of Roda mentions 2017 ("very dry and very hot, our earliest vintage to date") and 2019, which despite several heatwaves, was "a fantastic year" for them. However, he believes problems were greater in 2022 and draws attention to the graphic below, comparing heat summation over the years.
The characteristics of the vintage have provided food for thought in terms of grape growing practices. "Cover crops in dry-farmed vineyards like ours are being called into question; we use interspersed covers, but we are now thinking of switching to winter cover crops in the future so that we can mow them and save water. Irrigation is a consequence of this; if the trend of hot vintages continues, we will need to consider watering the vines. Acidification is also an issue. We rely on Graciano, a variety rich in acidity, but this year we had some grapes that lacked malic acid. Traditional practices in Rioja like shoot thinning and leaf removal are also questioned now, as many bunches got burnt. While this does not affect quality, it has a major impact on production," Santolaya points out.
On the positive side, he highlights the virtual absence of diseases and therefore treatments, and the fact that, although ripening was problematic because the plants shut down, there was no water stress, as evidenced by the absence of leaf fall. "Vineyards with yields of around 3,500 kg/ha and old vines do well every year. Whatever the circumstances, having balanced plants is essential", he stresses.
Their new vineyard in Cellórigo, planted last year, did not need irrigation. The choice of the site, a cold area on the foothills of the Obarenes Mountains with col soils, meant that the vines developed beautifully. Everything here was done looking to the future. Whilst all the selected Tempranillo morphotypes can withstand the challenges of climate change, the keyline design, which follows the natural contours of the land, means that the soils will be less likely to be affected by the increasingly frequent torrential rains.
What about the wines? “Surprisingly enough, they are not heavy at all. They are lighter than expected, perhaps because this is not a year of full ripeness, and they feel less full and meaty than the 2019 and 2021 vintages. We have good aromas and firmer tannins so we went for short macerations and hardly any extraction at all. Perhaps the wines cannot be described as excellent, but they are very good indeed, have balance and have shown their character pretty soon,” concludes Santolaya.
Off the back of a winter where essentially there was no rain in the winter months, a few storms in March and April brought a little bit of respite to the vineyards in Calatayud. Bud burst followed typical dates, but from May onwards Aragón witnessed abnormally high temperatures with very little rain for the rest of the growing season. “2022 was the first year in Aragón where the future became the present in my 20 years of working in Spain,” says Norrel Robertson.
Many growers struggled with shoot thinning and trimming as vegetative growth became hard to handle. Dry and warm conditions in June resulted in exceptional flowering and fruitset, with bunch numbers way in excess of previous vintages. Whilst many growers looked forward to a bumper crop, the ensuing drought during berry growth in July and August meant that yields were kept in check with a resulting low juice to skin ratio which could be felt in the way many winemakers needed to adapt their maceration and fermentation strategies.
The abnormally high temperatures not only affected growth in the vineyards. In July, a Dutch company that sells carbon offsetting credits to other companies to fund reforestation programmes (and thereby offset carbon emissions from their everyday practices) managed to start wild fires whilst working with machinery in +40ºC heat. The ensuing flames consumed 14,000 ha of land in Calatayud and flames reached within metres of many of Robertson’s old vineyards (pictured above, the Marzolin plot planted in 1917). “This is a clear sign that climate change is a real phenomenon. Thankfully this took place pre veraison and so there was no risk of smoke taint,” explains the Scotland born winemaker. “Whilst we are moving to regenerative viticulture, the debate over cover crops versus cultivated soils becomes more relevant. The reality is that many vineyards acted as fire breaks where there was no combustible material between the vines”.
Robertson and his team started to harvest on 6 September, 10 to 15 days earlier than the norm. “The older vineyards handled the difficult conditions of 2022 extremely well. Our yields were slightly up from 2021 and the wines are looking very well balanced. Malic acid was low on Garnachas - sometimes less than 0.5 g/l after alcoholic fermentation.” With regards to the lower juice yield to skin ratio, the winemaker moved away from punching down in 2022 to avoid too much tannin extraction and favoured gentle pump overs, gently wetting the cap.
Dry grown viticulture is more demanding than ever, Robertson says, adding that his focus now is on using own natural resources to manage drought and plant health. “We are now producing Biochar to sequester carbon and improve soil health and water retention in our vineyards. The Mad Max scenario is already here.”
Starting on 27 July, soaring temperatures and severe drought marked the 2022 vintage, the earliest ever at Gramona. "There was an increase of one degree compared to 2021, and one and a half degrees in the months of June, July and August. We were primarily affected by the four heatwaves we had", says Roc Gramona.
The youngest of the Gramona saga, Roc has clear ideas. For him, the 2022 vintage was the ultimate proof that international grape varieties like Pinot Noir or Chardonnay are no longer suited to the area. "The size of the berry is crucial in sparkling wines. This year Chardonnay was half its usual size, meaning more skin and less must so it is harder to extract. Yields were much lower and it took us two hours longer than usual to press the grapes. We are therefore thinking about resizing the grape reception area". He thinks Garnacha is a good candidate to replace Pinot Noir. As for other grape varieties, Macabeo struggled badly, with significant drops in production, while Xarel.lo, "an all-rounder that held up pretty well", will play a prominent role in the blends of their 2022 sparkling wines. Average yields in the estate's own vineyards dropped from 6,000 to 4,000 kg/ha except for old Xarel.lo and Macabeo vineyards, where there was less variability.
Cover crops were not feasible in 2022. "We had to plough twice so that the soils didn't crack and retain water, particularly in clay-dominant areas", he explains, adding that they will have to adapt to highly variable weather conditions in the future, resorting to cover crops in rainy years with an excess of vigour. He also forecasts low vine density plantings, drought-resistant or vigorous rootstocks and clonal selection focused on achieving higher acidity and lower pHs. "Now we plant the rootstocks, wait two years for them to grow deep roots, and then graft directly in the vineyard using our own plant material. The aim is to create vigorous plants capable of withstanding tough climatic conditions". An irrigation pond is also under consideration to provide the minimum amount of water for the plant to develop enough wood for the following year, "but there is a risk of creating shallow roots and water is scarce," Roc points out.
As for the wines, although acidity is somewhat lower than in 2021, the outcome is much better than expected. "The wines are expressive, have a sort of harmony and are not unbalanced. In the end, acidity didn’t dropped that much because some of the grapes were harvested early in order to build acidity reserves for certain blends; in others, the concentration prevented acidity from degrading".
The vintage in a sentence: "Distressing in the vineyard, but it measured up to expectations in the cellar."
He doesn't find it hard to describe the harvest in just one sentence: "Six months of summer. After April, we had July, July, July, July, July, July, November and December". It looked pretty bad, but in the end the resilience of the vines in Priorat, particularly the old ones, was impressive, resulting in wines with good acidity and low pH. "Ultimately, this is due to the soils, the age of the vines and the cooling effect of Poboleda. Our location and the acid nature of our slate soils will ensure that, despite the lack of temperature variations during the ripening season, the wines will age well. This makes us think that Priorat vines have learned to deal with heat and drought so they are well equipped to cope with extreme weather conditions".
According to Llagostera, the region’s habitual Mediterranean summer storms helped the vines to complete the cycle without water stress or shutting down. Young vines are usually irrigated but this year they had to be watered as early as June. Following the experience of another hot year like 2017, many growers in the region kept water reserves or ponds, Llagostera explains. Despite the fact that bud break happened later in 2022, high temperatures hit hard from May onwards. The graphic below shows temperatures (orange curve) well above the average (green curve), and how the heat persisted in October. "The eldest in the area don’t recall a situation like this before," adds Llagostera.
Vintages like 2022 reinforce Mas Doix's commitment to indigenous grape varieties: "Cariñena has a long growing season and that’s helped a lot. Garnacha, and particularly the white varieties, did feel the heat, but Pedro Ximénez performed superbly", he points out. Similar to other areas, the lack of humidity translated into very healthy grapes: "We didn’t need to apply any treatments."
What about the wines? "Warm vintages tend to be more suitable to drink earlier and this is something that is happening in 2022. The wines are very easy to drink".
The heavy rain between April and May, at the height of the flowering season, caused serious crop losses for many growers in the wine-growing areas between Yecla and Tarragona. One of them was Pepe Mendoza, whose yields fell by 40%, but the Alicante producer concedes that, in his case, it was his salvation. "As the vines bore less fruit, they were able to cope with the heat and the stress was less pressing than in plants with more fruit or with high density, which were unable to recover. In the Mediterranean, you have to be generous with the plant; you always have to let it stay light and cool, preventing the grapes from being tired.”
In such a hot and dry environment, Mendoza saw how the dry-farmed, goblet-trained old vines fared better than the trellised and drip-irrigated vines. "Weather conditions are becoming more Mediterranean, also in Rioja and Ribera. Fortunately for us here, we have the know-how and we planted the old-fashioned way, but some areas will have to consider lower pruning crosses, so that the plant does not have to climb so high to fetch water, and return to the traditional plantings of 1,500 plants per hectare instead of 2,800. The gobelets with 10,000 plants per hectare will gradually disappear,” anticipates the owner of Casa Agrícola.
Contrary to the current prevailing view, Mendoza argues in favour of early ripening varieties in his area, such as the local Giró. "We have only just started to ask ourselves questions. Everyone is in favour of late ripening varieties because they preserve acidity but with the increasingly unstable weather we have in this part of the Mediterranean, with torrential rains of 200 litres in September and October which represent 50% of the total rain that falls in a year, is it beneficial to have the leaves degrading? Or is it perhaps better to have early ripening varieties which are harvested before the torrential rains and with the leaves intact? If our elders continued to plant Giró, it must have been for a reason.”
With regard to the wines, the Alicante producer speaks of a short vintage, with concentration and structure, but he sees strength and character in his wines and predicts some positive surprises. However, he admits that there is still work to be done in the winery. "The good vines will be good, but there is more bad than good. In a mature vintage like this one, the vines that were stressed tend to produce baked notes and the wine feels tired on the palate. The ratio of liquid to skin this year is lower so we have to be more delicate and subtle in the extractions to avoid wines with harsh tannins.”
In this area where extreme heat is an old acquaintance, temperatures were not much higher than in previous years, although they did suffer continuous heat, with several days over 40ºC and a very long summer, stretching from May to October. "After the abundant spring rains, the heat returned and the plant grew explosively; in fact, we had some coulure," says José María Vicente. "In Jumilla, production was 30-35% lower due to the heat".
For the Murcia-based producer, whose late ripening Monastrell and Garnacha vines are all dry-farmed, 2022 was a typically dry Mediterranean vintage, similar to 2017 and 2012, and he believes that the lower yields helped the plants to better withstand the water stress.
After two great vintages such as 20 and 21, 2022 is a lesser vintage, the result of a complicated year, but the wines are juicy and vibrant right now, says Vicente. "I was expecting more jammy fruit, but the wines are bright and lively. It is true that they have less acidity but in terms of flavour and texture they are light and fresh. The heat and the drought meant that the alcoholic ripening process was ahead of the phenolic maturation. This might be evident when the wines are released, but for the time being they are fresh.”
“Of the 19 vintages I've experienced so far, this was one of the most difficult, both mentally and physically," says the Mallorcan producer. "It was the earliest in our records [from 2 August to 13 September] with terrible, persistent heat; our summer finished in early November. The grapes were very healthy, but ripening was irregular with sudden temperature peaks. In addition, it was difficult to find grape pickers, so everything dragged on".
As all of Mesquida's vineyards are dry-farmed, production dropped significantly. French varieties were badly affected, with 30 to 40% drops in yields ("this tells us that they are not well adapted"), whereas native grape varieties fared better. As a matter of fact, Mesquida says that the stars of the vintage were the white Prensal and the red Callet.
She chose to harvest early so as not to risk having low acidity and high pHs, going for short macerations and a lot of co-fermentation. "After much effort and struggle, one day I realised that the vintage was actually good because we managed to minimise the warmth factor. We have clean, fairly fresh and floral wines. In fact, I already know where every wine goes, which is rather unusual at this early stage", she explains.
The team formed by Margarita Madrigal, Alexandra Schmedes and Gonzalo Rodríguez feel lucky to work with high altitude vineyards on the raised plateau of Mesa de Ocaña, in Toledo province. "Harvest dates have not changed much for us; we started on 3 September and finished by the beginning of October. In some cases, we were more concerned with pH and total acidity than alcohol or sugar levels."
Nevertheless, some paradoxes have emerged in their organic vineyards. Whilst some of them were harvested relatively early, rustic grape varieties like Airén and Garnacha Tintorera extended the vegetative cycle, yet sugar concentration dropped, resulting in lower alcohol and fresher wines. "The reds have persistent, ripe tannins; the whites perhaps feel fuller, but strangely enough they are lighter than other years," explains Madrigal.
Although heatwaves are not new in the area, this year’s drought was particularly aggressive. "Should this become the general trend, vines are going to suffer," Madrigal points out. Under these circumstances, Más que Vinos reassert their choice of indigenous grape varieties such as Cencibel (Tempranillo), Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet), Airén or Malvar. "Old vines and low density plantings are also very helpful to guarantee quality," the Más Que Vinos team add. New plantings are done like in the old days: first goes the plant rooting, then in one or two years the grape variety is grafted on the rootstock. This helps the plant to have better rooting and it means that local, well-adapted plants can be used.
The man who recoverered ungrafted Airén in Castilla-La Mancha thinks that the worst thing about 2022 was the heatwave in May, as it affected fruit set and resulted in a 30% drop in yields. The area is undoubtedly used to high temperatures and in addition, Verum has focused on varieties that are well adapted to climate change. "But flowering is critical because it brings imbalance and sets the trend for the following growth season", López Montero notes. "In the future we will move towards lower yields even in vineyards which can be irrigated, although we will have to be careful because water reserves are scarce and limited," he adds.
Verum seeks to boost dry-farmed vineyards, grape varieties with lower water requirements such as Tinta Velasco, and the use of cover crops to retain moisture in the soil. So far, results are positive: "We need less water," López Montero says. This year, however, the successive heatwaves meant that some dry-farmed vineyards struggled to keep their leaves, as they halted their physiological activity failing to produce sugar normally. "Whereas in La Divina, a plot with rustic soils, leaves suffered considerably and we could only reach 11% abv., Las Tinadas benefited from its deeper soil and its grapes achieved 12.5% abv.", explains Montero. “In trellised vines, on the other hand, irrigation helped to keep the leaves and the plants were more resistant".
In addition to well adapted indigenous varieties like Airén and Tinto Velasco, Garnacha and Mazuelo have also performed well this year; in contrast, Graciano was severely affected by the heat.
As for the wines, the pHs are somewhat higher, but the alcohol is lower. "All the reds are below 13.5% abv., they matured somewhat unevenly so macerations were gentler. In general, the wines are lighter, but with plenty of flavour, which is something that has surprised us positively," says López Montero.
As in other areas, the Jerez region did not escape the drought and the extreme heat. Palomino grapes experienced vegetative shutdowns with vines barely reaching 10% alcohol, although the average finally stood at 10.9%. As a result, yields barely reached 60% of the maximum allowed by the Control Board and acidity was very low.
The situation was so challenging that Willy Pérez regards 2022 as the most difficult of his 20 vintages. "After the lack of finesse in the 2020s, we were cautious from the start and tried to protect the vines as much as possible right from pruning. When we were unable to leave a long cane, as is customary in Jerez, we cut the vines short, losing almost all the crop, but ensuring the following year's pruning in the direction of the sap.”
Being such a dry year, even the crop covers struggled to grow, so Willy and his team decided to use straw mulching to cover the vineyard, a practice that worked out very well for them. As usual in this winery, the harvest, which lasted two months in each plot, was done on several stages, ensuring a through selection of grapes. "Sun-exposed clusters went for the Cortado, and the greenest ones for the paler styles. This year we have also reduced the yield in the press trying to prevent the loss of finesse and, except for some wines that could handle it, we barely fermented anything in butts, thus gaining precision in such a difficult vintage.”
After a very dry 2021, scorching temperatures and a heatwave in the second half of August, just before the harvest, Fátima Ceballos reports that the weather in Montilla-Moriles this year continued the same trend: heat and, above all, a prolonged drought.
Whereas in 2021 Pedro Ximénez was particularly affected by the heat, with a 32% drop in yields, this year the variety that suffered a similar drop was Cabernet Sauvignon, of which Lagar de la Salud has six hectares. Pedro Ximénez, on the other hand, lost 7% of its crop compared to the previous year. "The drought hit the less adapted varieties hardest, causing blockages in the physiological functioning of the plants, not only in this vintage, but also in future ones," Fátima explains.
As the vintage is a once in a year opportunity, Fatima, whose first vintage in the area was 2017, believes she needs more vintages to know if 2022 is really a turning point but does not deny that she is now re-thinking some practices in the vineyard. "It was a challenging harvest. It is increasingly complicated to farm foreign red varieties or to manage the canopy. I also realise how important it is to have vineyards with well-established and resistant root systems, like the old vines, or a balanced trellis," the winemaker acknowledges.
As for the character of Montilla-Moriles wines, which are mostly made from Pedro Ximénez, Fátima says that it depends largely on the time of picking rather than on the vintage itself. "I think this is a year of zones and winemakers. Deciding when to harvest is always crucial, but this year it was even more so and we had to be extremely precise. There will be exceptions, but in general, I think we are going to find concentration, power and in many cases low acidity in the wines.”
An autumn and winter with mild temperatures and more rain than the previous year brought balance to the vineyard and considerably improved yields, especially in Santiago del Teide in the northwest and in the remote plots of Taganana in the far northeast. Meanwhile, in northern areas of Tenerife such as La Orotava, Roberto Santana speaks of a classic year, with a rainy spring and high relative humidity, which meant more treatments with drying agents and canopy management, and a dry summer with high humidity, especially in Tacoronte and Santa Úrsula.
As in most of Spain, the above-average hot days also occurred in Tenerife and, although the vines were not blocked, ripening started 10-15 days earlier. Fortunately, Santana explains, they had harvested practically all the grapes by the time the inestable weather reached the island at the end of September, leaving almost 100 litres of rain.
As for the quality of the wines, Santana is generally happy with the result. "They are quite complex, fine and elegant. In La Orotava we have 15% lower production but the quality is good, while in Taganana, after several difficult years, yields have doubled this year.”
The overall impression of the 2022 vintage presented by Recaredo, an iconic sparkling and still wine producer in Penedès, in their harvest reports sums it up pretty accurately: "We are no longer talking about climate change, but rather about a climatic scenario of low yields, some scars, but also resilience."