A tour in the Côte de Beaune: all is very dry here, and the first signs of hydric stress in some of the very rocky parts of Puligny-Folatières is being noted. Otherwise the vines are largely in rude health, though a little powdery mildew can be found in some chardonnay plots. Rain would be a nice present for the growers, one of whom told me today “The harvest date is potentially coming forward – If we get a little rain, we could even be starting to harvest whites between 05-10 September.” That could be up to a week earlier than most reports – but rain will be needed for that.
It’s going to get hot this week – 40° hot. Many are the domaines that are altering their work schedule to cope – starting their days in the vines between 5-6am and finishing at lunchtime – at least the outdoor portion of their duties!
I briefly saw Mark O’Connell in the vines on Sunday (right, in his Pommard 1er Grand Clos des Epenots) and he told me “The foliage looks great, it looks like I haven’t got very big yields, but compared to what I’ve had in most years – 2018 excepted – I’m happy. So far nothing to worry about in terms of maladies, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!”
Last week saw many domaines starting work on both their palissage – that’s securing the growing shoots between the wires to guard against the wind – and their hedging/pruning – i.e. cutting the tops off the quickly growing vines. This hedging usually only starts when the flowering is done and is most quickly done with a tractor and a cutter to mow the tops of the vines, but more and more domaines are choosing to use the old method of multiple people using hand-shears. As one grower confided “I’ve got 10 workers in the vines – I’ve got to keep them busy doing something! But joking aside, I’m doing this more and more by hand as that’s one less visit in the vines with a heavy tractor, compacting the soil.”
Flowering has been over for a while in some places, but Chablis and the Côte Chalonnaise were not yet over at the weekend – but it will be close to finished anytime now. I spoke with Eduard Parinet, who has vines in both Pouilly-Fuissé and in Moulin à Vent and he tells me that the vines, in both places, have recovered better than they could have hoped for following the frost of 05 April. The losses, however, are still estimated to be in the order of 25-30%.
Then there’s the question of the heat this week; The growth of the vines has been luxurious, despite not so much rain this year – another grower, Elodie Roy, told me yesterday “Thank god for the rain that we had on Friday night/Saturday morning – I’ve 1,200 new vines planted – I really didn’t want to be out in the heat with my watering can!” Of course, growth will slow if Burgundy touches 40°C – the plants tending to shut down to protect themselves from excess, but the weather pattern may cool a little and become stormy early next week – let’s see!
I did a little touring in the Côte Chalonnaise and the Côte de Beaune yesterday, and all these images of flowering vines that have been on Instagram and Twitter for the last 10-12 days tell only a small part of the story.
The Côte Chalonnaise has some precocious areas where the flowering is close to finished – but generally, we are not yet half-way through. In Bouzeron the aligoté is further behind – some parts not yet having started flowering – even the east-facing parts, and certainly not the west-facing!
The Côte de Beaune is pushing a little more, but most places seem more mid-flowering than finished – those latter areas, like in the Chalonnaise are the most precocious, but far from common. So the heavy rain of the weekend and even some light rain on Monday was unwelcome but sometimes it’s like that!
We will have to wait for the proper fruit-set in another 1-3 weeks to have the best idea on yields after the spring frosts…
Time for an end of May round-up:
I show you the pictures of my iris(s) only to emphasise the point – they are between 6 and 10 days later blooming than last year. Last year they only had another week of nice blooms before they were starting to look a little tired, but this year not all the varieties have flowered yet – perhaps over the weekend as +26°C is forecast.
It’s quite similar in Burgundy.
At the end of March – in-line with most recent vintages – the vineyards were warm and the buds were swelling. For all intents and purposes, we were ahead of the curve (the average) and could easily have been looking at another late-August, early-September harvest – that was before the April’s, and indeed most of May’s, weather.
April brought a number of frosty nights and generally colder weather than March – March often brought temperatures above 22°C – not a single day was above 20° in April – and 12° was closer to the norm. A cohesiveness of vignerons never previously seen was in action in the Côte d’Or choosing to ‘fight’ the frost; candles, bales of straw – you name it, it was burnt – including many sausages at impromptu barbecues, including one near Echézeaux – even Aubert de Villaine joined in the 9.00am drinks on the 14 April, though perhaps imbibing less than some who got home at 11 am and promptly went to bed to sleep it all off!
Most people seem to have seen more damage in the first week of April (05-06), despite most of the buds not being open – the worst has been in the Mâconnais with (possibly) an average of 30% losses – though depending on your place – much more or much less. The Côte de Nuits, Côte Chalonnaise and Beaujolais Crus have hardly been affected – though southern Beaujolais has losses, mainly in the chardonnay – but the bottom of the slopes in the Côte de Beaune and certainly the unprotected areas in Chablis will have suffered – it was a very classic Spring Frost this year, right into May too. Until the fruit-set, post-flowering, we can’t really say much more about what degree of damage.
As noted, May was also uncharacteristically cold – some more bales of hay were burned – often questionably, as it wasn’t even minus temperatures! But properly warm May weather didn’t return until practically the end of the month – this brought a few outliners of flowering in sheltered but sunny spots, but real flowering – up and down the Côte d’Or – will be something for the first week to 10 days of June 2019. For now, harvesting looks like a mid-September operation…
Fortunately, April and May brought some welcome rain – the winter and spring have been very dry. This in itself isn’t a problem – but if the near drought summer conditions of 2017 & 2018 are to be repeated, then there will be some problems. For now, the rest is conjecture and the summer has finally begun…
Yes I know it’s May!
The weekend was bizarre at home – jumping (if that’s the right word) from 20°C on Saturday afternoon to snow in the early evening – I really don’t remember the last time I saw snow in May. Saturday afternoon saw me packing insulation around all my hydrangea and agapanthus!
This morning, early underway to Burgundy, I had to contend with a thick frost on the car – as you can see below, it didn’t do pinot and chardonnay (my two vines at home) any favours – this was also, the first frost for a few weeks. The candles were highly active again in Chablis overnight and may be required tonight too. The forecast is for warmer nights from Wednesday.
First reports from the Côte de Beaune are positive, and as usual the Côte de Nuits was fine. Things were okay in the Beaujolais and Mâconnais too – the damage was done there early in April – but they were fighting the cold in Chablis again. I’ll keep you posted, of-course…
On the positive side, today I finished my tastings with a brilliant 1969 – from magnum!
The plain of Gevrey today…
Today was a wet day – not the few spots of sandy, Sahara, rain of yesterday – today was proper rain, and there will be more in the next days too. Perfect for the vines.
The vines are now pushing out their leaves such that the view of the vineyards is transitioning from its winter characteristic, to its summer characteristic; winter sees a base of green grass and weeds, with brown lines of dormant vines – now we have the contrary – ploughed brown soil with green lines of vines – the inversion is well underway!
Prior to the frost, the vines of the Côte d’Or were well over 10 days ahead of the average vintage – now it’s less. This rain, coupled to temperatures in the low twenties, means that there will be a steady, rather than explosive, growth in the vines – a few days of 28-30° are needed for ‘explosive’ – and that’s not yet on the cards…
18h30 the curtain of cloud, the border between rain and blue sky, passed over Vougeot – time for another jog, in the sun, no-less!
The Côte d’Or was in full, frost-battling, swing over the weekend – like I’ve never seen before – in fact, possibly like never before – the whole of the region currently smells of smouldering straw! I’ll link the most impressive view of the action which came courtesy Vincent Dancer of Chassagne.
Let’s not forget the work in Chablis too – they have been fighting the frost now for 5 nights – including the last 4 in a row (versus mainly just 2 in the Côte d’Or). There is certainly some localised damage, though not yet on the scale of 2016 or 2017 as the frost is a couple of weeks earlier than in those two vintages. The cold has, so-far, been dry in Chablis – which reduces the frost’s impact – unless you have vines next to the water-sprays – but no sprays for yourself – then things look less good!
Tonight is the last possible night of frost in the current weather cycle, warmer temperatures are forecast for at least the following 10 days. Fingers crossed!
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Last week I reported on this year’s first ‘stabs’ of frost in Burgundy – and it seemed that from Chablis to Beaujolais everyone expected some modest losses from the year’s first wave of frost – except the few vignerons that I spoke to in the Côte de Nuits – they lead a charmed life!
Yesterday, as I was preparing to leave Beaune for a long weekend, the Côte de Beaune was once-more preparing themselves with many large bales of straw to be seen punctuating the flat-land vines of Aloxe and Chorey – the forecast was for about -1°C this morning – but seemingly that was not enough to prompt the bales being lit. Last night in Chablis, however, saw temperatures of -4°C and those with recourse to protection used it. Nathalie Fevre notes that ‘It was a proper Spring frost – frost collecting at the bottom of the hills, so on the higher slopes we had no problems.‘
It seems that for the next 2-3 days there will be a lack of sleep for many vignerons as they watch the mercury – the temperatures are currently set to rise from Sunday onwards, though…
Earlier in the week I showed you images of the candles and wind-machines that were waiting in the vines – because this was forecast.
Above is an image shared by Olivier Lamy in St.Aubin, taken last-night, but I’ve seen pictures from Chablis and the rest of the Côte d’Or – e.g. Sylvie Esmonin’s Clos St.Jacques – not just with candles burning through last-night, but also the return of burning straw in Santenay, Savigny and Volnay.
On the positive side, temperatures were ‘only’ about -1°C to -3°C in the Côte d’Or but as low as -4°C in Chablis, and only a small percentage of the buds have actually started to open – we are of-course much earlier in the growing season than when the big frost of 2016 (and Chablis 2017) hit. On the negative side, there is surely still some modest damage and the total cost can’t be calculated before the fruit-set – i.e. how well the flowering goes and how that translates to (latent) grapes on the vines.
Growers in Pouilly-Fuissé and St.Véran shake their heads when asked about the frost – ‘I’m sure we have some losses – but it’s too early to tell‘ is a composite response.
The situation is similar in Beaujolais; temperatures as low as -3°C, and whilst the vast majority of buds were not yet open, there is still some expectation of reduced yields – all the way from the crus to the south of the appellation – I asked half a dozen vignerons from north to south Beaujolais, and they are anticipating 10-15% losses in the gamay, more in the chardonnay. All say, however, that it will depend on whether the vines keep pushing over the next couple of weeks, or whether the frost causes a pause in growth – if the latter, then they are sure that they will have lost more…
I will, of-course, keep you posted. We have one more night that may bring some frost – tonight – though perhaps not in Chablis as the clouds may offer protection there – before calmer weather returns…
L’aspersion a tourné ce matin à Maligny près de #Chablis. Le but : créer un cocon de glace protecteur autour du bourgeon. La température a pu descendre jusqu’à -4 dans des bas-fonds, mais dans beaucoup d’endroits elle est restée > à -1 ou -2. Les dégâts devraient être limités. pic.twitter.com/vmBWoAcg0U
— Vins de Chablis (@vinsdechablis) April 5, 2019