WineMaker News Page

Updated Febuary 10, 2020

Photo courtesy of Stone Hill Winery

2019 Grape Harvest Wrap-Ups

As we move into 2020, we wanted to pause to get a quick snapshot of the 2019 northern hemisphere wine grape harvest in both North America and Europe. The theme for North America was cooler temperatures and an overall great year for white wine fans, while Europe was much more varied.

Here in North America, the Wine Institute is reporting that a wet spring turned into a cool summer overall in California with an extended growing season; averaging 1–2 weeks longer than average. Lower sugar and higher acid grapes in general were the result, which is garnering a lot of praise for their balance. The California harvest was down about 2% compared to 2018. Further north in the Pacific Northwest, vineyards experienced decreased Growing Degree Days (GDD) compared to the last several years in almost all AVAs noted by Greg Jones, a professor at Southern Oregon University. Again, a later harvest with lower Brix and more balanced wines resulted. Further north in Canada, moderate heat during the summer yielded to a wetter than normal September with average yield overall. Winemakers and grape growers were striking an optimistic chord overall. Further east, the Finger Lakes and Niagara region’s grape growers are telling a similar tale. Late bud break and moderate heat during the summer transitioned to warm days and cool nights during ripening, extending their harvest dates about 10–14 days.

Photo courtesy of Ravenswood Winery

According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), the European Union production declined by an estimated 15% compared to 2018. A cool rainy spring yielded to record shattering heat waves that struck the EU multiple times during the summer months. France, Italy, and Spain were the hardest hit while further east, Germany Romania, Hungary, and Austria ended up at or even above average yields. Jancis Robinson noted that Germany is expecting high-quality wines from 2019 while the Rioja region in Spain was hit by torrential rains just prior to harvest, kicking grape growers there while they were already down from the summer heat.

Cabernet Sauvignon in a Changing Climate

A collaborative effort between UC Cooperative Extension, Beckstroffer Vineyards, and Duarte Nursery has begun to study the effects of various Cabernet Sauvignon clones grafted onto different rootstock. This study matches 10 Cabernet clone types grafted on 10 rootstock types, with a total of 3,600 total vines planted in Lake County, California. The goal of the study is to look at how the interactions between rootstock and clone can handle the changing climate where drought tolerance may be key to a successful harvest and simultaneously producing high-quality Cabernet grapes.

Ample Supply + Lower Demand = Good for Winemakers

The trend has been one that has been several years in the making . . . the 2019 California grape harvest is expected to leave a lot of fruit hanging. A combination of overly aggressive sales forecasts for the past several years combined with a bumper crop year in 2018, has had a synergistic effect that commercial demand for wine grapes in 2019 is much lower than usual. While this is not good news for some grape growers, hobby and small-scale winemakers may be able to find great prices on high-quality grapes.

The Maceration Accelerator

While this piece of news is really more for the bigger commercial winemakers, we thought it interesting enough to share with winemakers of all sizes. A new machine, the Della Toffola Maceration Accelerator or DTMA, reduces maceration time by up to 50% while simultaneously improving the extraction of polyphenols and anthocyanins. The maceration accelerator effectively shreds the skin of the grape while not shredding the seeds. The process known as Accentuated Cut Edge (ACE) maceration has been the focus of Dr. Angela Sparrow’s studies, helping lead to this new technology. For more on her research, you can visit:

New Products

Winexpert Limited Edition (LE19)

Now in their 30th year of Limited Edition kit production, Winexpert has announced their line up of five limited quantity kits to be released monthly, one per month between December 2019–April 2020, including three reds and two whites. Contact your Winexpert retailer for the latest details.

2020 RJS Restricted Quantities (RQ)

Celebrating their 20th anniversary of the RQ program, RJS Craft Winemaking is releasing five kits, four reds and one rosé. Each 18-L (4.75-gallon) kit comes with its own artistically designed labels and bottle dressings. Contact your RJS Craft Winemaking retailer for the latest details.

Mini FerMonster™

The FerMonster™ family just got bigger and welcomes two new members! The Vintage Shop now has the 1- and 3-gallon (3.8-L and 11.4-L) wide-mouth fermenters. Just like their older brothers, 6- and 7-gallon (23-L and 26.5-L) FerMonsters™, these non-ribbed, PET food-grade material fermenters are easy to clean and use and are perfect for small-batch fermentations or trials. These are nearly impermeable to oxygen penetration and almost impossible to break. Several add-ons are available such as carriers and solid lids. To learn more visit:

Artisanal Small-Batch Brewing

For those looking to explore the world of fermentation outside of the grape world, herbalist Amber Shehan has written a book promoting small-scale wine, cider, mead, and beer brewing. Focusing on recipes and exploration, small-scale batches allow those looking to experiment with these unique alcoholic beverages a great opportunity to begin. The book is split into five groupings: Mead, country and fruit wines, ciders, beer/gruit, and finally other-recipe types. Check with your favorite local or online bookseller for more info.

Upcoming Events

February 14, 2020

Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society (TVOS) Amateur Wine Competition entry deadline is February 14th, 2020. Rules, fees, and all entry information at American Wine Society judges will be judging the competition and awards are presented at the Annual Conference March 14th.

March 16, 2020

Early Bird Discount deadline for the WineMaker Magazine Conference being held in San Luis Obispo, California. The nearby Paso Robles wine region and the Central Coast region of California are just waiting for exploration. Conference will be held May 28–31, 2020. Register by March 16 to save $100. For more information:

March 17, 2020

Entry deadline for the 2020 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition. Entries must be received by March 17. Join in the excitement as the awards dinner will be held May 30 at the WineMaker Magazine Conference in San Luis Obispo, California. For more information about entering your homemade wines, meads, or ciders in the world’s largest amateur competition, visit:

May 28-31, 2020

In case you haven’t heard yet, WineMaker is pleased to announce the location of our 13th Annual Conference: San Luis Obispo, California. The 2020 WineMaker Conference will be located near the heart of Paso Robles wine country. Early-bird registration to save $100 is now open.