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First look at the upcoming 2007 harvest

With the 2007 harvest looming just in sight, we check in with some of the top growing regions around the world to see how they fare.

The lucky country for the 2007 harvest is shaping up to be Italy. Dramatic climate change has created perfect growing conditions that have ripened the grapes early, and there is much anticipation in the air over the potential of the 2007 vintage. Although early indications are that the '07 vintage will rival the '06, the true test will be in the hands of the winemakers. While they will have great fruit to work with, it is ultimately their skill that will be tested as only the best will be able to take advantage of what the season offers.

Germany was also blessed with warmer than usual weather. This is great news for these producers in one of the coolest growing regions in the world. The often hard to ripen Riesling should be no problem this year.

Spain experienced rain early in the season, and while this is good news for the parched soil, it is one more factor that winemakers will have to deal with in '07. This is not a year for laissez-faire wine production. The truly talented winemakers of the region will have to apply themselves to realize their potential.

France is experiencing the most extreme and volatile weather patterns. For the first time in history, storms have blown into Bordeaux from Africa as well as from the Atlantic. There have been scattered reports of lost crops in Bordeaux, but our on the spot observers tell us that the media have mostly overblown their reports. The sun has been in hiding for most of the South of France and the wrath of hail has surely brought tears to many vignerons. Farther north, sunny skies and warm dry weather is producing ripe concentrated grapes.

Australia also saw a jump in quality as the lack of rain has helped to concentrate the fruit, making for more intensity than in the past. Frost too played a part, reducing the number of potential bunches, which keeps yields low and quality high.

South American winemakers experienced a difficult vintage because the growing season was greatly influenced by El Nino. Hail storms rocked most of the wine regions in January and February followed by heavy rains in late March and early April. Winemakers are reporting dramatic differences in tannin and sugar levels and some were forced to declassify the second round of harvest. Again, it will be the talent of the winemaker that will bring out the best the grapes had to offer.

Even California is feeling the warming trend, allowing sparkling wine producers to begin their harvest even as we post this. Grapes for sparkling wine are traditionally picked early in order to retain the high level of acidity so critical to the balance and character of the wine. So it is no wonder that plans are already underway to harvest these grapes.

As the general trend points to global climate change, we are sure to see some good vintages in the next few years, but how long the vines and vintners can battle Mother Nature remains to be a mystery.