Weather Watching over the Burgundy Vineyards

By | 7 Jun 2015
Còtes de Nuits Vineyard

Còtes de Nuits Vineyard

As this is a wine area and almost everyone is somehow affected by it, I thought I’d write a note about the weather’s affect on the vines as it is that time of year in Burgundy when there is searing heat followed by storms.

For lay people the storms just clear the air, but for the vignerons it can be a worrying time, especially around the areas of Pommard and Volnay.

At about this time over the last 3 years, storms brought hail stones that severely damaged grapes in those areas, with some winemakers losing all their crop from those appellations.  Several years of that can bankrupt them.

Those who either have vines elsewhere or didn’t completely lose their crop, could drastically increase their prices, especially as Burgundy wines are sought after.  But they’d really much rather have a full harvest of wine to sell and keep good and loyal relations with their buyers, so increases have been modest so far considering the circumstances.

The weird part is that the most damage in the last 3 years has been in the same areas of Pommard and Volnay which are small and right next to other appellations that didn’t get destroyed.

I asked one Pommard winemaker if there was anything that could be done to protect his grapes.  He told me that rockets of silver iodide launched from planes are still used occasionally.  However, it is a tricky operation to get right: the rockets are launched further south near to Macon and if the wind changes direction or speed, the effects are felt in different areas to the ones they are trying to protect – last year he thought it was the Côtes de Nuits who got the benefit from the Pommard intended rockets!   Additionally, they don’t know, as yet, if there is any knock on effect of the use of the silver iodide which then falls to the ground, so it is not an ideal solution.

Another winegrower in Pommard has applied netting to the vines.  It makes it a little awkward to tend to the vines but if it saves his crops it will be worth it.  He has applied the nets to every other 4 rows of vines so that he can have a good comparison of whether the nettings works and whether it is worth the extra labour and cost.

His fellow viticulteurs await the results with great interest.  So do I – I want more velvety Volnay!

Pommard-Autumn-2014

Pommard-Autumn-2014

The weather forecast originally said there would be a storm this weekend, then as the week progressed the prediction was postponed to next Thursday and seems to be getting pushed further on again.

I find the storms here seem to increase in strength according to the how hot it’s been and the length of the hot spell – and if the same temperatures remains it will have been very hot for a fair time by the time that storm arrives.

I’m watching the weather forecast (mostly for selfish reasons for my garden) but I don’t know if the vignerons are themselves.  They have their syndicats to do that for the rockets and as I understand it there is nothing they can do until after the storm has passed, when there would be much checking for damage and trimming back.

Here’s hoping 2015 will be the year that breaks the hail damage cycle and that we’ll have lots of lovely Burgundy to drink!

 

Lou Messugo

3 thoughts on “Weather Watching over the Burgundy Vineyards

  1. Phoebe @ Lou Messugo

    It must be tough relying so heavily on the weather for one’s livelihood, I’ve always admired farmers and other producers. The hail storms can be vicious – we once got caught in one on the autoroute near Marseille – the stones were so big (size of golf balls easily) and so heavy that we literally couldn’t see more than a couple of metres ahead, ON A MOTORWAY. Everyone was pulling off on to the hard shoulder it was pretty scary. Our car was brand new and got very badly damaged by the stones, so what they must do to poor little plants is unthinkable. BUT…I don’t like the idea of rockets sending up chemicals to disperse the clouds, that’s all a bit science-fictiony and surely very un-ecolo? I didn’t know that happened. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

    Reply
    1. Back to Burgundy Post author

      Yes, it sounds such a romantic way of life but it is a tough one too.
      As I understand it, the silver iodide has so far been shown to have a negligible effect. And to be fair to the winegrowers, not only are they keeping a close eye on it as the healthiness of their vines is of utmost importance to them, it is seldom used by them. However, cloud seeding is used extensively by airports all over the world and in mountains for skiers and before big sports events etc., some using other chemicals or even salt, which despite being ‘natural’ can be very bad for soil. But that’s about the extent of my current knowledge on the subject!

      Reply
  2. Christy Swagerty

    We always think of wine making as such a classy activity, but when it comes down to it, it is still very much agriculture and farming! Farm life is never simple, and the hope for good weather is crucial! Hopefully that netting technique works, then most vineyards could start using it as well!

    Reply

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