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August saved the Burgundy 2015 vintage, say vintners

Warm days and cool nights in August and September brought freshness to concentrated fruit, resulting in grapes with plenty of anthocyanes and colour, said vintners in Burgundy.

This is despite a three-week heat wave that saw the Burgundy 2015 growing season hit by the highest temperatures seen since 2003 – and the driest July weather since 1949 that stressed vines and thickened skins.

Vintners from the Côte Chalonnaise to the Côte de Nuits were struck by the thick skins. ‘When you pick figs, as it is the season now, they have very thick skins; that was the same for our grapes,’ explained Amaury Devillard, who owns Domaine des Perdrix in Nuits-Saint-Georges and Château de Chamirey in Mercury.

‘A normal August with rain towards the end of the month expanded the grapes, but never broke them, because the skins were so thick,’ Devillard added, ‘and we needed that August weather.’

Jean-Philippe Gervais, technical director for the BIVB, agreed, stating ‘August saved the vintage’ because it brought needed volume to the grapes. Temperatures in July reached 36-38 degrees Celsius (97-100 Fahrenheit), limiting yields to below normal, Gervais explained, and harming more sensitive young vines.

Several vintners reported yields were 30-40 percent lower than average, even more so for vineyards in the Côte de Beaune that had been struck by hail in previous years.

‘Recuperating vines did not yield as many grapes as normal this year,’ remarked Anne Parent of Domaine Parent in Pommard.

‘As in 2005, we did not have to do much selection in the vineyard, aside from removing leaves and bugs, because all the grapes were in good health,’ she said.

This year’s whites have ‘less acidity, so we picked early, as sugars were high and we did not want to lose any more acidity,’ explained Alex Gambal, in Beaune. ‘But whites will not be like 2003, because there is more acidity than that year.’

The harvest – which lasted from late August until mid September for most vineyards – was also noted for its uniformity and precociousness.

‘Normally, we start picking about now,’ Gambal said, on Friday 18 September. ‘Two years ago, we started picking in late September but this year the harvest started in late August.’

Vintners often stressed that comparisons to 2003 are erroneous because acidity levels were higher.  ‘We did not have grilled grapes, in spite of the heat, and we have recorded normal pH levels for different vats, between 3.25 and 3.3 or so,’ explained Anne Parent.

BIVB president Claude Chevalier, of Domaine Chevalier in Ladoix-Serrigny, said this week ‘I do not want to put the cart before the horse, but 2015 looks like a great vintage. The only problem? The low yields.’

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