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Unusual Weather Delivers Italy’s Worst Grape Harvest in Decades

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Wine grapes (photo courtesy Perillo Tours)

Wine grapes (photo courtesy Perillo Tours)

Summer storms have dampened Italian wine grape production, putting this year’s harvest on track to be the most meager since 1950. If Italy produces an estimated 900 million gallons of wine in 2014 – 15% less than in 2013 – it will cede its position as the world’s most prolific wine producer to France. The 2014 grape harvest will also begin later than in previous years.

“With a reduction of more than 15 per cent compared to last year, the harvest of 2014 risks becoming the worst since 1950,” Coldiretti told The Telegraph.

“It’s certain that Italy will this year lose its number one standing in the production of wine to France.”

Unexpectedly wet weather in the spring and summer months can rot the roots of the grapevines, significantly damaging the fruit with mildew and slowing the ripening of the grapes. August brought better, drier weather throughout the country, and many vintners worked hard to preserve the quality of the remaining grapes last month. Vintners have had to cull their crops so that only the best surviving grapes will be harvested, leading to the expected decline in production. The 2014 grape harvest will also begin later than in previous years.

The good news, though, is that the wines produced this year are expected to be top-notch, since the growing conditions have forced winemakers to weed out the subpar grapes. Some consumers, especially abroad, are concerned that wine prices will rise to make up for the shortage of bottles and for the money wineries spent to alleviate the damage done by the rain – although Prosecco producers have said they will not pass on the increased price to consumers. Italy’s wine industry employs about 1.25 million people and is worth 9 billion euros ($12.7 billion).

Sicily and Puglia will be the hardest-hit regions, with production down by one-third, while northern regions will also see a decline. Central Italy is expected to see a 10% rise in wine production, but this will not be enough to offset the overall decline.

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Kathy is the founder of the award-winning subscription travel newsletter Dream of Italy, and a noted Italy travel expert. Kathy’s travel advice has been quoted in USA TODAY, BusinessWeek, U.S. News + World Report and on ABC News, among others. Follow Kathy and Dream of Italy on Facebook and Twitter.