2019 grape harvest in Europe

2019 grape harvest in Europe
© unsplash/ User: Jodie Morgan

The EU Commission, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), and other international institutes involved in recording annual grape harvests across Europe and around the world expect that the 2019 EU grape harvest will be between 156 and 160 million hectoliters – well below the previous year’s figure of more than 190 million hectoliters. The quality of wine is considered to be consistently good and in fact better than in 2018.

At 161 million hectoliters, (the figure recently published by the EU Commission for the 2019 wine must harvest in accordance with Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2012) this volume is slightly below the 5-year European Union harvest average of 168 million hectoliters (as at October 20, 2019). For comparison, the European-wide harvest in 2017 was considerably smaller (146 million hectoliters) and in 2018 was approximately 190 million hectoliters.

The EU Commission states that most of the smaller wine-producing nations, such as Portugal (6.7 million hl, +4%), Romania (4.9 million hl, +4%), Hungary (3.2 million hl, +6%) and Austria (2.6 million hl, +15%), with the exception of Greece (2 million hl, -20%), have recorded harvests in 2019 that are above the five-year average.

Such harvest fluctuations are actually normal for agricultural raw material markets. However, they can cause real headaches in a world of industrialized production and consumption for not only winegrowers and organizations such as producer associations, cooperatives and wine traders, but also for bottlers, wineries and buyers in the specialist food and beverage industry.

Grape harvest across Europe

While reports that the 2019 harvest across Europe was 15% to 20% smaller are accurate and understandable, they give the false impression that the 2019 harvest will not be able to meet demand. The comparison is misleading, and what really matters, in fact, is the multi-year harvest average which is used to supply the markets.

Due to the fact that the global wine market has been stagnating for several years, there is a sufficient amount of wine available and therefore no reason for any price hikes. However, in the case of individual categories, excesses or shortfalls in volumes could lead to major fluctuations on the cask wine and bulk wine markets.

Rudolf Beeck, Manager Europe & Asia at the Spanish wine consultancy, Select Wines in Valencia, outlines the current market situation regarding base wine. “Although buyers see the prices from the latest harvest as way too high, they need to be put into perspective. Of course, at its current price of approximately 35 euro cents per liter, white wine is almost 65% more expensive than prior to the harvest, but the prices prior to the harvest, of only 20 euro cents per liter, were so low that no one was able to make any money from wine anymore. A price of approximately 35 euro cents per liter corresponds to the average price in recent years”.

glass of wine after grape harvest
© unsplash/ User: Kym Ellis

The three largest wine-producing nations are decisive for the grape harvest: Italy with approximately 47.6 million hectoliters, France with 43.4 million hectoliters and Spain with 38.1 million hectoliters (according to the EU Commission). The individual countries have since reported even smaller harvests. Italian institutions recently reported a harvest of around 45 million hectoliters and Spanish institutions around 34 million hectoliters. Either way, with just shy of 130 million hectoliters, these three countries together account for around 80% of Europe’s wine must harvest.

For many market players, the global figures are just one of many factors. Two things which are often more crucial are how the harvest in the individual countries and regions turned out and the ultimate quality level of the harvest. Like winegrowers in all other European wine-producing nations, French winegrowers had to deal with extreme heat and a lack of rainfall over the summer. On one hand, this led to grapes ripening earlier than in previous decades, but on the other hand, the grapes were, thanks to the drought, largely spared from fungal diseases and pest infestations. France’s harvest is around 4% to 5% below the multi-year average. Overall, the producers and their representatives are saying that the grapes are healthy which promises to result in good-quality wine.

Italy remains the grape harvest leader

At over 47.6 million hectoliters, Italy’s harvest is also around 15% smaller than the previous year, but according to EU figures, this should only be 3% below the multi-year average of 49.1 million hectoliters.  The harvest volume has actually now been corrected to a lower figure of approximately 44 to 45 million hectoliters. As such, Italy remains the biggest wine-producing nation in terms of volume for 2019. The north, from Piedmont in the west to Veneto and Friuli in the east including Emilia-Romagna, accounts for around 25.5 million hectoliters of the harvest volume. The central belt, including Tuscany, Le Marche, Umbria, Abruzzo and Lazio, accounts for 7.4 million hectoliters. The south of Italy, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, accounts for 13.1 million hectoliters. The quality has been assessed as excellent by the oenology association Assoenologi. The musts have a high sugar content and the perfect balance between pH value and acidity. 

Spain’s winegrowers and wine producers had somewhat of a mixed vegetation year. After an extremely hot summer, various localized torrential downpours of rain in September with up to 300 liters per m2 led to floods, which caused some crop damage. The main regions affected were those in the south, from Andalusia, Almería, Alicante, Murcia and Valencia right through to the south-eastern part of Castilla-La-Mancha and Majorca. In regions which harvested later, the grapes were somewhat able to take advantage of the rain. Overall, the Spanish harvest was considerably smaller, and according to market observers, red wine in particular is expected to be scarcer.  

2019 German grape harvest remains stable

The EU Commission has stated that Germany’s harvest totals 9 million hectoliters, which is around 40 million liters above the harvest volume reported by the German Winegrowers’ Association and the German Federal Statistical Office of 8.6 million hectoliters which is based on estimates from the end of September. Only time will tell who is ultimately right. The harvest is therefore either slightly below or slightly above the multi-year average of around 8.9 million hectoliters. With a harvest volume of 2.5 million hectoliters, Rheinhessen remains the largest German wine-producing region and even boasts a harvest just slightly above the 10-year average. With 2.2 million hectoliters, Germany’s second largest wine-producing region, Palatinate, is 2% below the multi-year average. A considerably smaller harvest has been registered by Germany’s other major wine-growing regions in Württemberg (920,000 hectoliters, i.e. minus 10%) and Franconia (375,000 hectoliters, i.e. minus 15%). Baden (1.2 million hectoliters) and Rheingau (20.5 million liters) are only very slightly below the average for the last 10 years.

Weinlese im Rheingau
© Deutsches Weininstitut

In contrast to almost all other EU member states, Germany has stated that almost all of its entire harvest can be termed “quality wine”, in accordance with applicable legal provisions. At the EU level, this percentage is much lower and accounts for around 75 million hectoliters, i.e. just under half of the EU grape harvest. 31 million hectoliters of so-called “IGP wines” (“vins de pays”) are produced, and wines with no designation of origin and base wines together account for around 48 million hectoliters.

Country 5-year average2019 grape must production
(1,000 hl) (1,000 hl)
Bulgaria 1,137 895
Germany 8,953 9,036
France 45,202 43,356
Greece 2,506 2,008
United Kingdom 32 .
Italy 49,088 47,600
Croatia 902 737
Luxemburg 109 60
Austria 2,292 2,631
Portugal 6,413 6,676
Romania 4,097 4,902
Slovakia 321 319
Slovenia 629 661
Spain 42,886 38,100
Czech Republic 664 568
Hungary 2,989 3,168
Cyprus 95 126
others 41 8
EU 28 168,355 160,900
Source: EU Commission on October 20, 2019

Dr. Hermann Pilz

Dr. Hermann Pilz has been in charge of the trade magazine WEINWIRTSCHAFT as chief editor for over 20 years. He loves writing about many different topics of the wine and spirits industry.