Time to take stock as the producers contemplate their August holidays – and without need to rush home early this year!
The long range weather forecast was for a mild winter, so we promptly enjoyed the coldest and longest for a very long time. One night around the 21st December, and depending on your place in the Côtes, the temperature at midnight plumbed -17 to -19°C. Typically this is no big problem for vines, unfortunately it was quite early into the winter season, and more importantly the temperature at 6pm the same day was a mere 0°C. Small pockets of low-lying vines, mainly in the Vosne and Morey area were engulfed in a fatal frost, occasional individual vines, perhaps weakened by disease, also succumbed. These were the first losses to frost since about 1985, the largest area I saw in April was in the low-lying lieu-dit of Beaune Les Mariages yet the vines to the side were untouched – maybe the soil had not been piled against the feet of the vines or perhaps it was as simple as keeping grass between the rows but one vigneron lost everything, the neighbour nothing. You can see below a picture taken last week of the already grubbed up plot of Les Mariages.
Re the frosts, BIVB chose to released a statement:
WINTER FROSTS IN BURGUNDY
Vine stocks still without leaves in June… this has been the unpleasant surprise this spring: significant vine loss has been observed following the winter frosts. Exceptionally low temperatures were recorded on 20 December, approaching -20C°. These extreme temperatures affected vine stocks all the more because of their sudden arrival, after a long period of relatively mild weather up to mid-December.
The vines thus affected did not continue their cycle. In Côte de Nuits, more badly affected than Côte de Beaune, the bottoms of the slopes were particularly hit, with quite significant losses in some cases, as in Vosne-Romanée and Morey-St-Denis. Vines were also affected in Clos de Vougeot. Most of the vineyards in Côte de Nuits were damaged, to a greater or lesser degree. “When the frost came, I think the sap had not yet fully descended, which made the vines particularly vulnerable to this sudden change in temperature”, explains one Vosne-Romanée winegrower. We have to go back to 1985 to find a similar situation. Quite severe frost damage was also observed in Mâconnais and, to a lesser extent, in Côte Chalonnaise. The areas which seem to be worst affected are situated between Igé and Chardonnay, and some damage has also been reported in Givry. Plots in the Yonne were less affected, although some fairly random damage has been noted at the low valley plots in Le Chablisien. It is difficult to draw up final statistics in terms of surface area, since growth has recommenced on a few plants which appeared to be dead. The flow of sap needs to be allowed to resume naturally. Late budding of branches is still possible.
The cold winter put everything behind the average schedule, but a warm early April brought this closer to average with budbreak before the end of that month. May was miserable and cold so some of the time that had been ‘gained’ was again ‘lost’. Flowering started in the middle of June for a week to 10 days depending on the place and altitude in the Côtes – the Hautes Côtes up to 2 weeks later. There was rain during flowering, not enough to wash things away but enough to make it (the flowering) not completely homogenous. Actually the ‘fruit-set’ looks almost good – another vintage with plenty of millerandes or small grapes.
As of the 31st July the vineyards have had their summer trim and look very smart in the sunshine. Forecasters are proposing a hot August though it’s started cool and wet – hmm those will be the same forecasters that proposed a mild winter I suppose – anyway, with (forecast) warm weather, harvesting could start as early as mid September, I’m betting it will be a week or two later – but let’s see. What we have today looks excellent, but we have another 6-9 weeks to get through – and it is rarely benign!
For those that are interested, there has been an earlier, and still ongoing commantary here.