Just back from one and a half days in the Côtes, and maybe this is already a good time to discuss the weather.
The landscape this week was quite magical – in fact my photos don’t do it justice; freezing mist but still with about 400m of visibility, sometimes more as glimpses of the hillsides made appearances.
The temperature was about -5°C causing the moisture in the air to crystallize onto all available surfaces; the vineyards looked like there had been snow. As for those temperatures – about time too! For weeks after the 2011 harvest the Côtes had warm temperatures and dry, sunny weather, in fact 2011 was one of the driest on record, despite intermittent rain through the summer. This was perfect for finishing the tasks like ploughing, and for those who do, pushing the soil up against the vines to give a small extra advantage against cold temperatures – temperature that we’ve yet to see.
A few growers I chatted with had been rather concerned because the temperatures had rarely been ‘minus’ so the vines weren’t completely dormant; many seemed to have retained their sap and even a few (mainly planted against walls) were showing the first signs of buds – it could have been a catastrophe if the Côtes were suddenly plunged to -20°C. This week’s weather seems like a good nudge to the vines to sleep a little, hopefully it’s just enough to ward off the worries.
I do wonder though; despite this general lack of ‘full’ dormancy, many were out in the vines, pruning and burning the waste – could it be a problem? I guess I’ll have to ask somebody who knows all about it – who better than Jeremy Seysses!!
Your summary captures the general anxiety pretty accurately. I would add a bit of context, namely that everyone got a real reminder of what a sudden drop in temperature can result in with the drop that happened in December 2009, which bears a large responsibility in the poor yields of 2010 and the many replanting one can see as one drives down the RN 74/D974. For me there is no shaking off that memory and I think of it every time I look at the thermometer and look at the weather forecast, much like every precocious vintage has me wondering if we risk getting another 2003 all over.
But going back to the question of the possible impact of pruning before any serious prolonged cold has hit. I am personally not too concerned about it. Most wine regions don’t get as cold as Burgundy over the winter and while the storage of the sap deeper in the vine is a good thing for that vine’s longevity, it is by no means fatal. As you can imagine, much of the US and most southern EU countries, etc. Don’t drop to -10°C terribly often. That we are attached to it is no doubt very much a reflection that in a decade in which we have seen all sorts of weather extremes and are concerned about climate change. There is something deeply reassuring about having a winter that looks like winter and a summer that feels like summer. I am certain that you can appreciate the psychological dimension of this. I do not think that this will necessarily have any real impact on the vintage, provided that we get a normal Spring or don’t get a 20°C drop in temperature overnight.
I hope this makes some sense.