Vintage 2022

From the frontline… 2022 vintage update on Bastille Day…

By billn on July 14, 2022 #vintage 2022

Over the past week, the temperatures have been roughly ‘average’ and the wind has been steady. Weather that has not been particularly favourable to the onset of veraison yet it has started, without pause, anyway! In many plots – not just the early ones – you can already find the first veraisoned berries and twitter/instagram is full of the images – even for the whites!

Of course, last week’s ‘average’ temperatures have made way for more sustained heat this week and a forecast that’s not dipping below 30°C – indeed nearer to 35°C – for the next 10 days. Heat spikes are expected, with peaks that could reach 38-40°C, even in the shade. Given the volume of rain in the last 3 weeks, it’s unlikely that the vines will shut down – some vigneron(ne)s claiming that it wouldn’t matter if there was no more rain between now and the harvest – others remain more circumspect.

To date, it appears that 2022 is at the same stage of growth (earliness!) as 2011, 2007 and also 2018 – which is to say 2.5 weeks ahead of last year and just a few days behind 2020. The current dryness is keeping all of the usual maladies in check and despite hail and frost (etcetera) this year, the average yield is looking rather high…

And for your fun you can look at the before and after photos of the soil at the bottom of Gevrey’s Clos Saint Jacques – first after June’s heavy rain and then after ‘preparing’ the mound of soil to return up the hillside:

week 26 2022 – the vintage so far (after the deluge…)

By billn on June 28, 2022 #vintage 2022

Clos Saint Jacques - after heavy rain
Gevrey’s Clos St.Jacques after the heavy rains – somebody’s going to have to take that earth back up the hill…

Well, there has been a lot of rain in the last few days – nearly 160mm recorded in Gevery-Chambertin, 21-27 June – a volume of water that brought soil to the bottom of the hills and ripped new channels through the vineyard roads and paths.

As you move south, the volume of rain slowly receded to between 50-80mm in the southern half of the Côte d’Or. The rain of 21-June focused on the north Côte de Nuits (Brochon, Fixin, Couchey). That of 22-June was more in the northern Côte de Beaune, the Côte de Nuits and the Hautes-Côtes with much variabilty in the Hautes Côtes depending on the particular valley. These first two stormy episodes were accompanied by hail in the north Côte de Beaune, including Chorey-les-Beaune and some of Ladoix plus in Côte de Nuits. Thursday 23-June, fortunately, brought only water and the same for the evening of Saturday 25-June.

In the Mâconnais, Fuissé, in one day, saw 50mm of rain – but in only 45 minutes! They had no hail, though other places, such as Vergisson, fared less well as there was hail mixed with the rain – losses are currently estimated at 30% – so much less than the hail of 2021 and, again, with the caveat that there was already a lot of grapes on the vines.

Mazis-Chambertin 24-June-2022Hail always generates strong emotions, it’s for that reason that I like to wait a few days before reporting on the potential consequences. The syndicate of Gevery-Chambertin (image: Mazis-Chambertin, right) were quickly discussing potential (average!) losses of around 15% but there are a lot of grapes on the vines this year – despite the April frost – so, at this stage, it’s not necessarily going to be a lower volume vintage. As one well-known producer told me today “Several impacts of hail and a lot of earth down the slope…. but no significant reason to cry!

Some of the grape clusters were not looking good – as is always the case with hail – but we have a forecast with 7-10 days of reasonably stable weather and warm temperatures that will likely dry these damaged grapes and give them the chance of dropping to the floor. Biodynamic domaines in Gevrey were already spraying their teas of tisane on Friday afternoon. From Beaune south, there are hardly any hail impacts as of today.

It’s patchy in Beaujolais too; poor Fleurie has some damage – it seems that if there’s hail, they always get it – but in Brouilly there was none and so forth. All told, nearly 500 hectares of Beaujolais has some hail damage – it sounds a lot (it is!) but it’s still only 3.5% of the 14,500 hectares that they have planted. It’s the sectors of Blacé, Saint Julien and the slopes of Arnas that have been most touched.

As noted, the forecast is largely good with temperatures approaching 30°C in the next 10 days – rot remains under control, for now, so steady as she goes…

The 2022 update

By billn on June 09, 2022 #vintage 2022

This week in the Côtes

The sun gave way to plenty of stormy weather over the last weekend – though fortunately none of the hail-induced devastation seen in vineyards in more southerly parts of France near Armagnac. There have been a few spots of hail mixed in with the storms but not enough to cause particular damage. As such – though stressed – the Burgundian locals are reasonably happy that up to 45mm of rain fell – since last Friday – on their very dry vineyards; May had delivered less than half the normal amount of rain.

Even in the Hautes Côtes, the flowering was largely over when the rain, sometimes heavy, fell – so will not have significantly affected the setting of the fruit. The chardonnay in Meursault and other places is showing a little coulure but yields still look good – though nobody knows how much juice there will really be until the grapes are pressed!

Post-rain, the weather is much cooler for now but from the weekend onwards will return to the high 20s°C. The recent cooler weather and darker skies have put the projected position in the vines about 3-4 days behind where it was in 2020 but still ahead of 2015 and 2018 – which still comfortably indicates an August harvest. The changeable weather increases the domaines’ vigilance to mildew, where incubation time is 5-6 days, so post-rain, the domaines will have a better idea by the end of this week on how it’s developing. Oïdium is also on the move in certain parcels. Fortunately, entry into the vines is not so difficult at the moment so there has been no brake on the required treatments.

The growth remains rigorous for now in the vines – so tasting appointments are at a premium – this may start to calm in the second half of July…

the 2022 vintage – today…

By billn on May 26, 2022 #vintage 2022

Yellow fancy iris - 2022
This ‘fancy yellow’ is often the first iris (it was the second of about 14 varieties this year) to flower in my (Swiss) garden – you can compare the precocity of the flowering dates here too:
09 May 2018
23 May 2019
05 May 2020
23 May 2021
14 May 2022 (above)

Now is a good time to start looking more closely at the 2022 vintage for grapes too!

2022, as in most recent years, began with warmer temperatures in February and March but these temperatures at least followed a ‘proper’ winter with many frosts and even some occasional snow.

Young vine Puligny Combettes 28 March 2022
Young vine Puligny Combettes 28 March 2022

Of course, the biggest issue with warm weather in February and March is that the growth starts quite early in the vines such that Spring Frosts are more worrying events than was previously the case. The perfect example of this was last year, 2021, when the temperatures at the end of March were above 25°C, pushing the buds to start opening – but one week later, most of Burgundy was hit with overnight temperatures of -4 to -8°C – and for the best part of 10 days. Typically, this impacts the whites the most, as chardonnay tends to start its growth cycle a week, or more, before the pinot noir. White-centric domaines in 2021 lost 50-80% of their crops because of the frosts.

The situation was virtually identical this year – only the March temperatures were lower – ‘only’ 2-3° lower though, with 23-24°C – but the timing of this year’s frost was almost identical to that of 2021. Candles, newer wood-pulp burners, windmills and for the first time this year, quickly deployed trace-heating cables (Bonneau du Martray’s Corton-Charlemagne and Jobard’s Meursault Genevrières – powered by generators in the vineyards – which seems much more environmentally sustainable) were deployed. Many producers looked glum after the frosts had passed but the majority chose to bite their tongues, saying that we should wait for the flowering before commenting on ‘how bad’ the result might be. I waited too!

Rape-seed pollen everwhere!

Romanée-Conti in flower - 24-May 2022Chardonnay flowers first, the pinots and gamay maybe a week later. We are currently seeing the debut of flowering in the Hautes Côtes, mid-flowering in the Côte de Nuits (Romanée-Conti, right) with some parts of the Côte de Beaune chardonnay already done – the smiles on the faces of the growers are currently broad – there are, it seems, plenty of grapes – which can often be the case after a frosted year – but nobody wants to think about consecutive frosts! Other than some wind and rain last weekend – storms were forecast but hardly materialised and this was a relief for growers because many of the shoots were long but not yet supported/restrained by the wires which will hold them in place – the wind can rip these fragile young shoots from their branches! The flowering has been in optimal weather; hovering around 30°C before the modest weekend wind and rain. It has been around 10°C cooler this week but with not much wind and fine blue skies.

Last week, the growers were in the vines treating them with sulfur against maladies; mildew really needs to be controlled before, or very early in, the flowering and seems rare for now, but oïdium is more of a worry in dry conditions. At the end of last week, Meteo France were proclaiming 40 consecutive days across France that exceded the annual average temperatures for the time of year – and herein lies the explanation for the (development of the) current stage of growth in the vines:
20th April 2022: estimate for growth – 2 weeks behind 2020 and 2014 at the same stage in those years
24th May 2022: estimate for growth, same as 2020 at the same stage that year*
*Chambre d’Agriculture for the Côte d’Or

Pommard 25-May 2022Unlike 2021 where cooler, wet weather, prevailed for weeks after the frost, 2022 has seen warm weather and almost no retardation of growth. At the end of last week, coupled with some much-needed rain, one vigneron told me that it was hard to keep up with the growth of the vines – anywhere between 5-10cm (right, image from Pommard yesterday) of growth per day! For this reason, the vignerons are, this week, making their first rognages – trimming the tops of the vines – and are already marking their calendars for another August harvest in the Côte de Beaune and possibly in the Côte de Nuits too.

Without weather accidents, the potential yields look okay – assuming, of course, sufficient rain – which was an issue for many domaines in both 2019 and 2020 and there is already a rain deficit versus the average year.

Of course, I’ll keep you posted!

‘frostwatch’ – 2022 part 2

By billn on April 04, 2022 #vintage 2022

Vine caterpillar
Blagny – last Wednesday – they were everywhere.

Less than one week ago, it was munching caterpillars that were the main cause of ire for vigneron(ne)s – of course, for the moment, they have been forgotten.

Looking at things from afar, it doesn’t look good: Part of the départment of Champagne (Marne) registered the lowest (non-alpine) April temperature since 1947 when French records began: -9°C, with more than 90% of France being touched by the frost of Sunday into Monday – seemingly it was only Paris that escaped it.

Look closer – at least in (greater) Burgundy – and I’m more optimistic:

  1. Although the frost has arrived at the same time as in 2021, the vines in 2022 are generally a few days behind their position in 2021 – the buds are mainly in their ‘cotton’ stage and few of them are open – just a few in the most precocious locations and/or very young vines – and, as ever, it’s the chardonnay that is the most precocious.
  2. Although it makes for dramatic photos (see the tweet below) there are generally fewer candles in the vines right now than was the case in 2021.
  3. Unlike the black, Winter, frost of 2021, we have seen a more classically Spring-frost this time – so the wind turbines have some utility this year.
  4. The frost lasted multiple (7-10) days in 2021 – it looks like no more than 2-3 days this year.
  5. The lowest temperature on Sunday/Monday in Chablis (which was slightly colder than the Côte d’Or) was around -6.5°C – though one domaine has told me -9°C also in Vaillons – more generally -3° to -5°C. The positive for the growers was that it was quite dry in the vines (except where they have been using water-sprays!). They have a little more concern for Friday and Saturday night where temperatures were closer to -2°C but the buds were wet from snow and rain. Today there was zero evidence of snow on the hills of Chablis – I arrived at lunchtime to a sunny Spring day.
  6. I have heard, however, that Courgis may have fared less well than the rest of Chablis – let’s see – I’ll be there on Thursday!

So losses for sure – the fertility of even the unopened buds can be affected by low temperatures. Other than a potentially cold night next Saturday, the worst seems now to be over and certainly no frost is forecast for the next days except for the caveat for Saturday.

As always, I’ll keep you posted.

frost watch and electric cables…

By billn on March 30, 2022 #travels in burgundy 2022#vintage 2022

I shared a photo with you from Monday afternoon as the team of Eric Germain at Vincent Girardin were placing candles in their vines – these buds not just in the ‘cotton‘ stage but also starting to open. That said, these are the buds of the more precocious young vines – the more mature vines being less obviously advanced.

This is an important point for now – the timing of this week’s warmth and next week’s (forecast) snow and negative temperatures being exactly as per last year, but:

  • The high temperatures have been less high than in 2021.
  • The forecast low temperatures for the coming days will be less low than in 2021
  • Given that the last few weeks of fine weather have usually started their days with morning frosts, the vines are less advanced in their growth-cycle than last year.

So – it’s still an issue for the young vines in the next days – and the Saint-Glace – the day after which the growers can forget about frosts – is still more than 6 weeks away. So what more can the growers do?

I noted on Monday that the upper part (of the lower part!) of Meursault-Genevrières was being prepared for trace electrical heating cables. This generally requires a lot of infrastructure work to bring the electricity supply into the vines – though is otherwise much more environmentally conscious than the use of candles – including the more expensive ‘organic’ candles option. Or you bring a generator into the vineyards to power the cables for the time that you’re going to need them – this was the approach of Bonneau du Martry in their vines yesterday – see the images below.

Of-course, the windmills are still an option this year as it doesn’t look like the deep Winter frost that came in 2021 is expected this year – ‘just‘ the Spring variant. These windmills are starting to crop up in the vines, in waiting. Of course, they also use their own generators to function.

Finally, just a few other photos from yesterday – including a reprehensible 12-rows, or-so, of Grands-Echézeaux vines that have been laced with herbicide. I bet the owners of the nicely ploughed rows on both sides of this dirty dozen are ecstatic!

hot, a couple of rocks and the return of the…

By billn on March 28, 2022 #travels in burgundy 2022#vintage 2022

Almost 23°C in the Côte de Beaune this afternoon.

This same week, last year, I saw 27°C in Chablis and we all know what happened the week after. Some people are already preparing for the next days – the forecasts are suggesting that heading into the weekend it could snow…

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