Europe Heat May Mean 'Superb' Wine

The European heat wave may be bad news for most farmers, but it's good news for that rare and little-known breed — the English wine grower.

Will Davenport of Davenport Vineyards has 12 acres of vineyards in southeast England that give him about 15,000 bottles of white wine a season. This summer, the sun is beating down on his grapes as it never has before. While this won't increase the quantity, it will immensely improve the quality of his wine.

"It should be a more fruity wine," he said. "The acids will be slightly lower so they will be softer flavors. And [it will be] a much easier wine to make."

The unrelenting hot sun also keeps away mildew and ripens the grapes more quickly and makes them sweeter. That produces a better-tasting wine.

The heat wave isn't just good for English wine growers. In France, vintners are predicting that 2003 will be a very good year, comparable to some of the great vintages of the last century.

‘Superb … Intense’

In Bordeaux, some vintners began gathering grapes this past week, though the harvest normally starts in mid-September.

"We have superb grapes, with a very intense aroma," said Jean-Philippe Delmas, vineyard assistant director at the Chateau Haut-Brion in Pessac, where workers began picking some grapes Wednesday.

While there are exceptions, "in general, the best vintage is an early vintage," Delmas told The Associated Press.

Anthony Perrin of Chateau Carbonneiux, in Bordeaux, told ABCNEWS last weekend he plans to start his harvest a month early, because, "We know we have a good concentration, good color, and the level of the sugar for the future alcohol of the wine is at a good level."

There is just one thing that could spoil the effect of this hot dry summer. And that is an exceptionally wet, cold fall.

"It's not over till it's over," said Thomas Matthews, executive editor of The Wine Spectator magazine. "There could be torrential rains in September. Or if there's too much heat and too little rain, that could negatively affect the harvest, too."

But many vintners are hoping the heat wave will set a trend, which could mean some more great French vintages and even some fine English wine.

ABCNEWS' Hilary Brown in East Sussex, England, contributed to this report.