The torrential rain afflicting northern Europe has left French vineyards at risk of losing much of the 2007 vintage from rot and mildew, with Bordeaux one of the worst-hit regions.
According to the Bordeaux Met Office 150mm of rain fell in May, 57mm in June, and July so far has seen 23mm.
Certain regions, such as Lesparre Medoc and Premieres Cotes de Blaye received up to 100mm in June. The damp, combined with intermittent days of warm, sunny weather, has created ideal conditions for mildew, a fungal parasite which starts in the leaves, moves to the sap and then attacks the grapes from within.
‘It’s been raining heavily throughout May, June and July – at first mildew was on the leaves, but it has now spread to the grapes,’ Jean Christophe Mau of Chateaux Brown and Preuillac in Bordeaux told decanter.com. ‘And once there is brown rot on the grapes, there is very little you can do.’
The southern Graves, where there are high levels of humidity, has been worst affected, with a few vineyards losing up to 90% of their crop, but the problem is being seen all over Bordeaux, especially affecting the merlot and semillon grapes.
‘The rain is good for Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt because we have just planted lots of new vines,’ said Severine Bonnie of Chateau Malatric Lagraviere. ‘But I can’t say the same for Malartic – this is going to be a very expensive year in the vineyards, because you have to be out there every single day ensuring the quality isn’t being compromised.’
Francois Despagne, of Chateau Grand Corbin Despange in Saint Emilion was more upbeat.
‘Despite the rain, the flowering has been even, and there is little example of ‘coulure’ (uneven fruit set),’ he said. ‘But it’s certainly true that we need some uninterrupted good weather as a matter of urgency.’
Problems have also been reported in Beaujolais, the Loire and the Rhône valley.
Written by Jane Anson