A colder winter than the norm followed by unusual climatic conditions in spring have resulted in the latest grape harvest on record, one of Malta’s largest wine producers has announced.

Nonetheless, early indications from grape favour concentration suggest that this will be another good year.

Addressing a news conference at the Marnisi Wine Estate in Marsaxlokk, Marsovin CEO Jeremy Cassar noted that despite being a wet year with over 566mm of rain, grape production is expected to be 20 per cent below 2018, which was the best year on record

He added that cooler than usual temperatures continued till early June, while “unexpected” precipitation in May resulted in the outbreak of downey mildew - a kind of fungus which attacks the foliage especially of the indigenous species of the girgentina and ġellewża grapes. This factor alone led to the loss of over half of the harvest in certain vineyards, Marsovin said.  

Mr Cassar says there has been a 20 per cent drop in production this year so far - though 2018 was a bumper crop. Video: Keith Micallef

While these climatic conditions resulted in a generally good wine vigour, it also means a delayed budburst, making 2019 the latest-ever grape harvest ever recorded in the 100-year history of this company.

However, it was pointed out that the harvest date varies according to variety.

Whilst early-ripening Chardonnay experienced a two-week delay, mid- and late-ripeners such as Cabernet Sauvignon have only suffered a delay of one week.

The delays mirror similar problems which local fruit farmers have experienced this year. Earlier this week, farmers told Times of Malta that harvests of summer fruits such as peaches and plums were low this year due to poor spring weather.

What are the effects of a late harvest?

Varieties which ripen first are still expected to reach the required natural sugar levels, albeit with lower levels of acidity, meaning that 2019 will be all about rich and rounded white wines with concentrated fruit flavour, Mr Cassar said. 

On the other hand, the red varieties which ripen at a later stage will have to be left even longer on the vine to reach a good level of maturity. Furthermore, the lower temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and high humidity in September will slow down the ripening process even more. The Marsovin CEO pointed out that such conditions would require extra care to maintain the vines well ventilated to prevent any fungal disease. 

Warning on declining industry

Mr Cassar warned that there was an overall decline in indigenous grape production in Malta, while at the same time there was an increase in demand.

“The fact that there are not enough farmers nor incentives is a major problem for this industry,” he remarked.

The Marsovin CEO added that wineries were a very environmentally-sustainable industry which authorities should sustain more. 

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