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Heavy rains across Europe delay growth ‘by three weeks’

The heavy rains that have been falling across France and much of Europe for the past few weeks have halted vine growth in many regions, jeopardising flowering at a crucial time of the year.

Trouble ahead…clouds over Clos des Lambrays in the Côte de Nuits [pic: Panos Kakaviatos]

In Burgundy, almost 400mm of rain has fallen since 27 April on the Cote d’Or – more than double the average. Growers say that the harvest is unlikely to begin before October, which will be three to four weeks late.

Surveying the Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Clos des Ducs vineyard in Volnay, owner Guillaume d’Angerville pointed out the noisy and constant flow of water draining from the celebrated vineyard: ‘We’ve only had five days without rain in the last 30 days,’ he said.

Over in Beaune, Frederic Barnier, winemaking director of Louis Jadot, pointed to clouds in the sky on 28 May: ‘This is typical, about two hours of sun, and then the rain comes back – we have had more than double normal rainfall since January, and what worries me most is the lack of sun.’

Flowering has been delayed and vineyard treatments such as ploughing that would normally have been completed by now have been difficult due to muddy vineyards..

Vintners have resorted to ‘19th century methods’ of applying preventive anti-mildew treatments by hand-spray, said Frederic Mugnier of Jacques Frederic Mugnier in Chambolle Musigny.

Although abnormally low temperatures have minimized the risk of the spread of mildiou and oidium, winemakers worry that an imminent rise in temperatures will result in disease.

‘Up to 10 degrees C, mildew will not develop, but temperatures have been close to passing that border,’ Mugnier said.

Vintners are facing similar problems in the rest of France. In Bordeaux, new plantings are being put on hold. ‘Everything is behind schedule,’ said Peng Wang of Chateau de Pic in Cotes de Cadillac. Champagne is on high alert for frost risk, while Loire winemakers are reporting rapid spread of vegetation and weeds.

Problems are not just limited to France. Axel Heinz of Ornellaia, speaking at a tasting of his wines in Bordeaux last week, said that Tuscany has also had a cold spring, and the vines are about two weeks behind their usual stage at the end of May.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos and Jane Anson in Burgundy

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