The SW Summary: On global wine production’s 60-year low, incoming EU wine labelling laws, the future of fine white wine, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Global wine production hits 60-year low

In the drinks business Patrick Schmitt reports on how global wine production has hit a 60-year low. Based on information from 29 countries accounting for 94% of production worldwide, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) estimates the amount of wine made in 2023 to be roughly 244.1mhl. This is 7% lower than 2022 and the smallest harvest since 1961. 

Giorgio Delgrosso, head of the OIV’s statistical department, ascribes the reduced harvest to climate change. He notes how “extreme climatic conditions” including “early frost, heavy rainfall and drought have significantly impacted the output of the world’s vineyards.” Climate change is undoubtedly one of the major challenges for the wine industry as “meteorological anomalies are becoming the new normality.”

The silver lining, however, is that the smaller 2023 harvest may help restore balance between wine production and consumption. Global consumption has declined due to economic and geopolitical instability, resulting in rising stocks across regions. Read the full article here.

Penedès set to become world’s first completely organic D.O

Writing for the drinks business, Sarah Neish reports on how Penedès is set to become the world’s first 100% organic D.O in 2025. D.O Penedès president Joan Huguet explains how it’s easy for the Catalan region to be organic due to low risks of fungal diseases. However, with vineyards ranging from zero geometres near the sea to 600 metres high in altitude, there will be some challenges in the conversion. Smaller producers will be eligible for financial help from the D.O Penedès to support the process.

Huguet is confident in the D.O’s ambition, stating that “for sure, in 2025 it will be compulsory to be organic. If you are not organic you cannot be part of D.O Penedès.” Read more here.

The EU’s incoming wine labelling laws

In Harpers Jo Gilbert discusses the EU’s looming deadline for digital nutritional wine labels. As of 8th December, all wine sold in the EU’s 27 member states will need to disclose full ingredient and nutritional information. The information will need to be clearly accessible either physically on the bottle or digitally via QR codes. This means any UK businesses exporting or reexporting to the EU market have just a few weeks time to ensure compliance. 

Gilbert notes how this change in EU labelling laws is “the largest of its kind in over a century and will usher in a new era of digital communication in terms of the way consumers access product information.” The change was largely driven by the highly politicised debates around alcohol and health, “which have intensified rapidly within the EU over the past 18 months.” Read the full article here.

What does the future hold for fine white wine?

In the drinks business Kathleen Willcox explores the impact of climate change on fine wine and looks at why more vintners are turning to premium white wine. Red wine has typically been considered more ‘prestigious’ due to the higher investment necessary (longer ageing and maturation periods) and in part, perception. As Willcox puts it, “great poets and politicians drink red wine. Pop stars and models drink white. White wine simply isn’t as serious as red.”

However, a combination of climate change, shifting consumption patterns and curiosity is altering the current and future market of white wine. Climate change, it seems, is kinder to white grapes, with many vintners finding that white grapes are more adaptable to rising temperatures. The lighter skin colour of white grapes means they attract less sunlight, thereby maintaining a better balance of flavours, sugar and acid. White grapes also provide more flexibility than red grapes because they “don’t require the same level of precise phenolic maturity at harvest time to ensure quality wine.” This ability to harvest early, for example before an anticipated heat, rain or fire event, allows vintners “breathing space and economic insurance”.

No vintner will invest in white grapes unless there’s a strong current or anticipated market demand for them. Consumer preferences are indeed shifting in that direction, with producers around the world seeing a growing interest internationally for whites. The rise of white wine, Willcox concludes, “as unlikely as it may seem at first glance…appears to be inevitable.” Read more here.

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.