Constellation has planted new vineyards in California

Constellation has planted new vineyards in California

Constellation Brands' head wine maker has said that a prolonged drought in California could push industry wine yields down by 10% this year.

Erik Olsen told just-drinks that rainfall in the state is down by 60% this year, with vineyards in residential areas being hit by conservation orders. Olsen also warned that the drought, which is California's third year of shortages, could weaken vine “vigour” for next year's harvest.

“Water conservation is really becoming a big focus,” Olsen said at ProWein 2014 in Düsseldorf yesterday (23 March). “In various communities, (authorities) are starting to impose restrictions on water usage. Some of the wineries that are in municipalities are being asked to cut water usage by 20%.”

He added: “If (the drought) lasts, then eventually you will start to see lower vigour in the vines, which could affect fruitfulness in vintage 2015.”

But, Olsen noted that Constellation's California yield this year should be level with last year's because of new vineyard planting. He said the sunny weather has created good buds that should make for a fruitful harvest.

“Back in the 1970s, when we had the last big dry patch, it was a three-year dry spell,” he said. “But then, in a month, we had so much rain it filled everything up. No one is saying it will rain, but anything could happen.”

Meanwhile, Accolade Wines' brand ambassador for Hardys wine, Bill Hardy, said the Australian harvest - now underway - will not be as good as last year's but should be better than the 2011 yield.

“Volumes will be down a little because the crop is down, but we've had problems with oversupply in the past few years in Australia, so it should be okay for the industry,” Hardy told just-drinks.