Illness is Infecting California’s Syrah Vineyards
Trouble in California’s Vineyards
An illness is infecting Syrah vines through California, causing concern amongst many winemakers. Although no one knows for sure what is causing the ailment, many experts believe it may be what is known as “Syrah Decline” in France. Syrah Decline has been affecting France since the early 1990s, but seems to be even more potent in California.
This development is particularly worrisome given the rising popularity of Syrah amongst California wine producers and consumers. Plantings of the grape have increased by over 2000% over the past decade bringing total acreage to about 19,000.
Infected vines develop red leaves far too early in the growing season, (usually July or early August). This inhibits grapes from ripening properly and leads to low sugar and acidity levels, poor yields, and lightly colored wines. Most vines suffering from Syrah Decline will die within 10 years.
The cause of Syrah Decline is not completely understood, but many believe that vines that are very water stressed are particularly susceptible. Vineyards planted in shallow soils in arid climates seem to be affected the most. The ailment may also be affecting some Zinfandel and Mourvedre vineyards, but to a lesser degree.