Temperatures have soared across Europe this week, in a heatwave reminiscent of the prolonged hot summer of the 2003 vintage in French wine regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne.
Vineyard workers in some regions have either temporarily downed tools or awoken in the small hours of the morning to avoid the heatwave this week.
Temperatures topped 35 degrees celsius in Bordeaux and Beaune this week, and were expected to continue rising in Burgundy through the weekend. Over the English Channel, the UK has already seen its hottest July day on record, with maximum temperatures creeping above 40 degrees at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
While it is early days, the weather has already led to some in France drawing comparisons with the 2003 heatwave that swept across the country 12 years ago.
Warm, sunny weather is often a welcome boost to winemakers across Europe in June and July, but there is a danger of heat stress in the vineyards if it stays too hot for too long.
For now, winemakers appeared relaxed about the situation.
‘The only thing to do is to do nothing,’ said Thomas Duroux, of biodynamically farmed Chateau Palmer in Bordeaux. ‘We stopped all intervention in the vineyard this week and we’ll see.’
In Burgundy, Erwan Faiveley, of Domaine Faiveley, told Decanter.com, ‘The only thing we can do is to protect our workers in the vineyards. They wake up very early and go in the vineyards as early as possible (4:30) to avoid working during the warmer hours.’
In Champagne, the Comite Champagne’s Thibaut Le Mailloux said growers were not concerned at present.
‘The clusters are just formed [on the vines] but are still very small at this stage, and the heatwave is only starting now. Therefore, no effect is visible; plus, the chalk constitutes a great water reservoir and will progressively release water,’ he said.
Olivier Krug tweeted that he’d be quite happy if the vintage turned into another 2003 for his namesake Champagne house, owned by LVMH.
Faiveley agreed, saying that if the heatwave lasts, ‘I would not be too unhappy to redo a 2003’. He added, ‘Have you tasted them recently? It [has] turned out to be a spectacular vintage for both reds and whites.’
Further south, in Spain’s Rioja region, Leticia Ruiz of Marques de Caceres told Decanter.com, ‘Although temperatures are high, these are not so different from what we’re used to at this time of the year here in Rioja.’
But, she added, ‘Should these high temperatures prevail over the coming months, we’ll have to irrigate the vineyards in some of the parcels of land.’
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