Many European grape growers are concerned that the strong possibility of an early harvest is looming.
Italy, which stretches into a number of growing seasons because of its length, may be the most affected. Grapes in some areas, such as around Rome, are ripening three weeks ahead of schedule. Other regions that normally harvest grapes in October are finding the fruit ready now.
The situation is being blamed on two separate heat waves that broke records across southeastern Europe in June and July.
Attilio Scienza, a professor of horticulture at the University of Milan with an expertise in vineyards, spoke with the Chicago Tribune about his advice on how to experiment with new varieties of grapes and his reluctance to blame the situation on global warming.
"There are records of early harvest across history," Scienza said, and those early harvests can have some effect on how growers look at the next season. If the pattern continues, he said, "this will likely change the variety of grapes in Europe. Growers will have to find grapes that fit the weather cycle."
However, the Italian Trade Commission's Web site isn't at all reticent about placing the blame.
"Unfortunately," it says, "early harvests are becoming progressively more common due to erratic weather patterns and rising temperatures caused by global warming.
"In Italy, the 2007 harvest comes even earlier than the record 2003 harvest. It is quite extraordinary to have two harvests like this in a short four-year span. 2007 weather patterns have been extreme across the continents with violent storms in Asia, exceptional flooding in England and extremely high temperatures in Europe this summer.
"Grapes were garnered a month early in many areas as the sweltering heat caused them to rapidly ripen. For example, Sicilian grape growers are now hastening to contract seasonal workers as their grapes now must be picked in early September instead of October. The grapes of the Northern sparkling wine regions of Veneto and Trentino also have been harvested approximately three weeks ahead of schedule."
In Hungary, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, the same problem is taking place. In Slovenia, where wine exports have been steadily rising, the harvesting already has begun.
The head of Goriska Brda, the nation's farm advisory service, said the western region that ranks as the nation's leading wine grape area, will begin the harvest at the end of next week with Chardonnay, White Pinot and Sivi Pinot.
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