Northwestern Spain’s Vineyards Grapple with Unprecedented Extreme Weather

By | 8 July 2024

A string of extreme weather events continues to wreak havoc in Spain, this time in the northwestern regions of Bierzo and Valdeorras.

A storm on 25 June hit Valtuille de Abajo and the surrounding areas, pummeling between 500-600 hectares of Bierzo’s most prized vineyards with hailstones the size of golf balls, crushing grapes, tearing leaves off vines and even damaging canes and permanent wood.

This is the second hailstorm in as many weeks. On 18 June a storm passed over nearby Cacabelos, pelting about 250 hectares of vineyards around the town with ice. The event also affected the nearby Ourense province, wiping out vineyards across DO Valdeorras.

With only two months left until harvest, growers are left with serious doubts about salvaging what looked to be an excellent vintage. And, extensive damage to vines may jeopardize next year’s harvest as well.

In Bierzo, most of the damage was centred in Valtuille de Abajo and Valtuille de Arriba. The affected area is home to about half of the DO’s premier vineyards, including the parajes of Villegas, Poulosa, Valdoneje, Telleria, Cabanelas, and Las Gundiñas.

‘In Valtuille it’s brutal,’ said Nacho León of Demencia Wine. ‘Almost the whole town was affected, about 90%, if not 100%,’ he said.

León added that damage to vine shoots means the storm will affect both the 2024 and 2025 vintages, calling the situation ‘a disaster’.

Nearby villages Pieiros, Villadecanes, Parandones, and Toral de los Vados were also hit by the storm and saw about 70% of their vines damaged by hail.

Speaking to local newspaper El Diario de León, Carmen Gómez, technical director of DO Bierzo, said she ‘almost cried’ when surveying the affected vineyards. Gómez said some producers no longer have any fruit to harvest, and for those who do have some grapes left, it may not be worth it to harvest at all.

The storm caught the vineyards at a delicate time as vines have recently flowered with grapes in the first stages of growth.

Berries are very sensitive to attacks by fungal diseases up until veraison, and currently there’s a high risk of diseases like downy mildew, black rot and powdery mildew due to wet conditions and high temperatures.

As growers pick up the pieces, the affected DOs have called for urgently treating affected vines to heal the wounds caused by hail and prevent the growth of fungi.

Bierzo’s wine growers will roll out these treatments and continue watching the sky as they cross their fingers that something will be left to harvest in the fall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *