2024 today – subtitled, the cold and the rain !!

Update 24.4.2024(22.4.2024)billn

22 April 2024 - flowers forming...
Monday 22 April 2024 – Pinot flowers forming in villages Chassagne…

I think that now is a good time to turn our attention to the 2024 vintage.

Vintages ending in a 4 have not had the greatest run of publicity; 2014 is an unheralded vintage but was actually an excellent-plus vintage for whites and a more ‘classic’ vintage for reds – people only seem to remember the reds though!

Pre-2014, we have a litany of poor (red!) vintages – 2004, 1994, 1984 & 1974 – we have to go back to 1964 to find a vintage with a decent reputation – though possibly the implied quality of that vintage has been augmented by failing memory !!

Back to 2024:

Although there were cold spells, and even a small dusting of snow to finish the year of 2023, the generality of the 2023-2024 winter was that it was another mild one.

With further mild weather in February and March (+3.6°C and +1.5°C respectively compared to average*) the vegetative cycle – ie the sap flowing back into the shoots from the roots – resumed ‘early.’ Early from a historical perspective but with ‘average’ timing in the context of most vintages since 2015. In some early-ripening areas, the first green leaves of chardonnay were visible before the end of March, though that coincided with some cooler weather that slowed the growth – a little.
*Figures from Beaune’s BIVB

At the same time, we can’t neglect the considerable amount of rain that has visited the region.

With seemingly 3 out of every 4 vintages now lacking rain in the summer, and continued discussions of the depth of the ‘water table,’ for now, 2024 is not like that. It’s fair to say that until mid-April this year, given the amount of standing water, the low-lying, flatter vineyards were good only for ducks. And it was much worse in Chablis, with the village of La Chapelle de Vaupelteigne twice cut off, the houses and cellars full of water. The second high-tide of water affecting also the centre of Chablis – the restaurant of Au Fils du Zinc also underwater (Instagram image below). The water-reserves of the vineyard areas seem to have been amply replenished – though in the quickly draining, sandy, granitic soils of the Beaujolais Crus, only 3-4 hot weeks can leave that as memory…

A rough rule of thumb is 800-1,000mm of rain per year – by the end of March, the region had already recorded 800mm since October – and since the 1st April, the Côte d’Or has received an average of more than 50mm more !!

So now to the roller-coaster of weather in April.

Images of April:

Easter was in early April this year and it coincided with warm weather – not as warm, though, as the end of that Easter week where temperatures hovered only a little under 30°C – for the uninitiated, that was nearly 85° Fahrenheit!

When warm weather and lots of rain coincide the vine-growth can be very fast – also the worry about mildew – growers were already talking about the possibility before the second leaves were visible !! The warmth and easy availability of water have led to, at this stage, one of the most precocious vintages – most of the vines now have three to six leaves showing per bud and the first flower buds are starting to show – at least, that was until it all turned cold at the end of last week.

Versus average temperatures, April has thus far delivered the most extreme variations of the vintage – so far – extremes of more than 10°C higher AND 10°C lower than the historic monthly (daily) averages.

Clos des Grands Vignes
The Clos des Grands Vignes in Premeaux

So we now have to talk about frost.

In the most recent vintages, frost has visited the vineyards at roughly the same time – 04-06 April – and lasted a few days longer in Chablis.

This year during 04-06 April there seemed to be no preparation to fight frost in the vines – the thought of frost seemed very far away considering the ‘Ice Saints’ day(s) (the Saint Glace*, 11-13 May after which there should be no more frosts) being still a distant 6 weeks away.
*According to European observations of the late Middle Ages, around the dates of the feasts of Saint Mamert, Saint Pancrace and Saint Servais, traditionally celebrated on 11, 12 and 13 May each year. Once this period had passed, statistically, frost occurs very rarely during or after the ice saints, though frosts are not impossible after these dates.

This confidence that there would be no frosts changed 1 week ago. Snow visited where I live (560m altitude) on Thursday 18 April, followed by weather forecasts with multiple nights getting close to zero degrees in Burgundy – at least the winemakers were no-longer worried about mildew!

This morning in Chablis, the water sprays and many windmills were deployed (below) – I have already seen images of frost-wilted leaves from Chitry – where of course, there are no water-sprays and candles are not economically viable. Plus some ‘moderate’ damage reported by Stéphanie Colinot in her Irancy vines.

A windmill has sat for many weeks in the middle of Louis-Michel Liger-Belair’s Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes – it has now been joined by many others – not least a couple in Freddy Mugnier’s Nuits Clos de la Marechale – also in Premeaux. In Morey and Gevrey both candles and warming cables have been deployed in the vines – there are even more candles and windmills in the Côte de Beaune. Florence Heresztyn tells me that her pinots are okay but she has plenty of damage in her local (Gevrey-Chambertin) chardonnay – as yet, the extent is not quantifiable.

So far, very few domaines have deployed frost-fighting measures – predominantly those with higher altitude appellations such as Olivier Lamy in St.Aubin. Vincent Latour in Meursault told me on Friday “I’ll keep my fingers crossed, they say about zero degrees but with plenty of wind so we might lose a bud here and there but hopefully not more.

All is quiet on the Beaujolais front – so far. The temperatures have been 1-2° warmer than the Côte d’Or – but still sometimes touching 1°C…

Over the next few days, I’ll be visiting both Beaujolais and Chablis – so I’ll keep you posted. But for now, outside of Chablis, candle-lighting seems to have been more for the self-confidence of the wine-growers – a prophylactic more than an absolute necessity.

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

Burgundy Report

Translate »

You are using an outdated browser. Please update your browser to view this website correctly: https://browsehappy.com/;