Canadian winemakers have not had it easy in 2023. Across the country, they have had to deal with late frosts, heavy rains, smoke from forest fires. Harvest time is approaching and wine producers remain optimistic: favorable weather in September could well overshadow the vagaries of the past few months.

Several Quebec winegrowers met in mid-August in Sainte-Pétronille, on Île d’Orléans, to take stock before the harvest. One word was on everyone’s lips: rain.

This finding comes as no surprise to Environment Canada meteorologist Simon Legault. Quebec received an abnormally high amount of rain this summer. For example, the Frelighsburg station, located in the south of the province, recorded 262 mm of precipitation in July. This is more than double the normal, underlines the expert.

More rain means a higher risk of diseases in the fields. The producers therefore had to treat the vines more to protect the future harvest. They also had to remove more weeds from the ground and cut more leaves to make sure the bunches were airy. These maneuvers required a lot of effort and a lot of time.

“This is not a year for the lazy,” says Charles-Henri de Coussergues, who is starting his 39th harvest at the Orpailleur vineyard in Dunham.

His colleague Michael Marler, of the Les Pervenches vineyard in Farnham, is of the same opinion.

It should be remembered that as of May, the 2023 wine season gave Quebec winegrowers a hard time. A succession of hot days favored the early bud burst. However, the night of May 17 was freezing. The mercury has dropped to -5°C in some areas. The scenario repeated itself for several nights. So much so that the 2023 harvest could have been lost entirely, because at this stage, the young shoots rarely resist below zero.

Luckily, observes agronomist Jean-François Péloquin, an expert in vine protection, Quebec winegrowers were better prepared than ever this year.

“The frost affected quite a lot of people, he explains, but the losses are relatively low thanks in particular to the means of control implemented. »

This is the case of Simon Naud, winemaker in Brigham. For the first time, he had called on experts to identify the coldest areas of his field. The team simulated a spring freeze in April to determine the best frost protection. The exercise was life-saving. Fires lit under the wind turbines saved the harvest of the Bauge vineyard.

Nevertheless, Quebec producers remain optimistic. Warm temperatures in July favored fruit growth, despite the rain.

“It’s not catastrophic,” adds Fred Tremblay Camy, winemaker in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. If the rain stops and the weather is nice in September, we will have a good harvest. The load on the bunches is beautiful. »

The country’s largest wine region, the Niagara Peninsula, is expecting a promising harvest. Despite some frosts in spring and hail, the weather was milder in this region in 2023. “If the end of summer is beautiful and we are ready to sort, it will be magnificent,” says winemaker Thomas Bachelder .

Wildfires in British Columbia forced the evacuation of several vineyards in the Okanagan Valley, but the fires did not affect the vines. According to Wesley Zandberg, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, it is too early to know whether the smoke will have an effect on the taste of the future harvest. However, he believes that the situation is less serious than in 2021.

However, one piece of information is confirmed: the harvest will be lower due to the intense cold in December. It was down to -30°C in Kelowna. Knowing that the majority of the vines planted in the valley resist down to -20 ° C, the group of winegrowers of British Columbia estimates that more than half could be lost.

Nova Scotia’s wine production is the smallest in the country and it will be even smaller this year. The province has recorded temperatures down to -26 ° C, a record, says Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, of the Benjamin Bridge estate.

“We’ve always been protected by the moderating effect of the Bay of Fundy, but not this year,” he explains. For example, the largest vineyard in the Maritimes lost 60% of its harvest due to frost, or all of the Vitis viniferas. The rain was also abundant in July in the east of the country, but it should not cause more losses.