While everyone was busy talking about 60,000 liters of intentionally-spilled wine in Ribera del Duero, another interesting item in Spanish wine news came to be which was the commitment of 21.4€ million in public money by the Agriculture Ministry to pay for future “green harvesting” of wine grapes in 2024.

For those unfamiliar with the term, green harvesting is cutting grape clusters off the vines while they’re still green and before they’ve accumulated sugar which is why the deadline to carry it out is 15 July of 2024. This is usually done in order to reduce production by having fewer clusters and thus, increasing flavor concentration. In other words, it’s usually thought of as a method to increase quality but the Spanish government is using it as a manner to decrease what has consistently been, far too much wine produced.

This is not the first time the Spanish government has made this offer and in 2023, it was 15€ million. The difference here is that the grants are now being offered a bit earlier and there’s 45% more money on the table. It’s quite clear that Spain readily sees a declining consumption of wine while there continues to be inexplicable growth in production in the country.

Unfortunately, hijacking what is traditionally a qualitative tool in the vineyards to reduce production is but a stopgap and temporary measure when what’s needed is a new vine pull scheme and one that specifically targets high-production and resource-heavy vineyards (such as the Tempranillo in Rioja Oriental) so as not to lose the old vines as how it happened in the 1990s EU vine pull schemes. The French have already seen the writing on the wall when it comes to Bordeaux with the plan to uproot 9% of the planted vineyards.

While regions like Rioja are looking to stop new vine plantings, that simply doesn’t go far enough given that there’s far too much wine and paying to distill unsold into alcohol as was done across Europe in 2023 is again, a stopgap solution. While no one has been terribly open about the figures, there have been hundreds of millions of liters sitting in tanks across Spain with nowhere for it to go.

While a vine hectarage reduction scheme is the only way to go, admittedly, if the drought continues as it has in Spain, a great many vines will sadly die this year and need to be uprooted anyways. But in any case, given the farming protests as of late, the government would do very well to get into front of this problem with long-term solutions that go above and beyond a trimming back a few extra grape clusters.