Cava and wine producers fear for this year's crop despite recent rain

Winegrowers in Penedès note "significant mortality" in vineyards due to drought

The drought has caused significant damage to vines
The drought has caused significant damage to vines / Gemma Sánchez Bonel

ACN | @agenciaacn | Vilafranca del Penedès

April 17, 2024 09:58 AM

April 17, 2024 07:05 PM

Penedès is perhaps Catalonia's most well-known wine region. Set among rolling hills just south of Barcelona, it is the home of cava, and also produces excellent red and white wines. 

But the drought in Catalonia is once again proving a major challenge for winegrowers in the region this year. 

The rains at the beginning of April coincided with the budding of the vines, and while winegrowers welcome the fact that the wet weather arrived at a key moment in the plants' cycle, they warn it failed to prevent "significant mortality" among the 25,000 hectares of vineyards across the region. 

There is no consensus on the precise number of plants lost, but producers say that only certain parts of many vines can be saved, while other fields will have to be uprooted entirely. 

The sector has asked for more help from the Catalan government, and is also working internally on other measures to compensate for the losses. The debate among wine producers revolves around how to reserve wine to make cava, how to increase the percentage of grapes pressed, and the use of regenerated or desalinated water

60m fewer bottles 

This is the fourth year in a row characterized by a lack of rain, while the harvest before that, in 2020, saw one third of produce across Catalonia lost to mildew, a form of fungus.  

A few months ago, given the lack of rain this winter, the first estimates from some winegrowers and processors said the drought would wipe out a third of the vines in Penedès. The rain that fell over Easter has provided some relief, but the sector continues to assume that there will be a large number of vines that will not survive. 

Josep Marrugat of the Unió de Pagesos (Farmers' Union) predicts that the summer harvest "will barely allow us to harvest 4,000 kg of grapes per hectare," when the average in "good" years exceeds 8,000kg. Marrugat points out that this is almost 40m kg less across the whole DO Cava region, "despite the fact that 7,000 hectares have been added in recent years."


"Despite adding 7,000 hectares to the DO Cava sparkling wine region in recent years, we are looking at a deficit of 30 to 40 million kilos of grapes for this year," he added.

Joaquim Tosas of employers' association AECAVA believes that 40% grapes will be harvested compared to the average. He warns that this will mean that there will be 60m fewer bottles produced. 

"It means a 25% gap in sales," while demand and consumption is growing.  

The government has defended its measure to support farmers amid the drought, saying that a package of €20m has been agreed for winegrowers: €450 per hectare up to 40 hectares in the case of professional farmers and 20 hectares for the rest. Farms where more than 8,000 kg of grapes per hectare are harvested are excluded.