‘Climatic conditions’ and the requests of a ‘certain number of winegrowers’ were cited as the reasons for Jean-Marie Garde, president of the Pomerol appellation, to ask regulatory body Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO) to temporarily reverse the long-standing ban on irrigation.
The favourable news was shared via emails seen by Decanter, with an accompanying letter from the INAO dated July 20, 2022.
The letter, translated from French, states that after ‘taking into account the exceptional ecological conditions’ of the vineyards which have led ‘to a situation of significant water deficit’ and ‘after obtaining the opinion of the President of the CRINAO’ (the regional committee of the INAO), the INAO ‘considers your request justified and grants an exception from the ban on irrigating the vines suitable for the production of wines with a Pomerol controlled designation of origin from today [July 20,2022] and at the latest August 15, 2022’.
Winegrowers were told that the exception was obtained to ‘deal with extreme situations’ and were asked to ‘use it only when absolutely necessary’.
It was also conveyed that the ‘exceptional possibility is particularly supervised’.
Any applications for irrigation must be sent to the Pomerol syndicat at least two days ahead of proposed irrigation. They must state the exact size of the proposed area according to cadastral records, grape varieties involved and the nature of the irrigation methods.
These will then be sent to both internal and external inspection bodies before approval is granted or refused.
The INAO makes reference to specific regulations pertaining to the use of irrigation according to certain environmental codes, one of which is related to the ‘balanced management of water resource’. Another specifies that ‘the average maximum load per hectare of an irrigated plot cannot exceed the value set in the specifications for the appellation, i.e. 5,500 kilograms per hectare for black grapes and for white grapes’.
It states that any general measures restricting the use of water in the department decided by prefects (the French state’s representative in a department or region) will be binding on all growers and that ‘under no circumstances’ will the area of the parcels involved ‘be taken into account in the calculation of the annual potential of producers for the constitution of VCI (a scheme that allows producers to set aside a stock of wine to use at a later date when yields are low).
They also state that the yield of the irrigated plots ‘cannot be increased for the 2022 harvest’.
Young vines not producing fruit, between four and six years old, remain exempt from irrigation.
The news is particularly welcome for many growers who have seen an onslaught of adverse weather conditions this year. ‘It may be completely unprecedented and completely unexpected’ said Martin Krajewski, owner of Château Séraphine in Pomerol, ‘but after the April frosts, the June hail storms and the crushing heatwave of the past two weeks, it is a most welcome lifeline for us all in Pomerol’.
Relief came across parts of the appellation this week, however, as Henri Parent, owner and manager of Pomerol properties Château Le Gay, La Violette and Montviel told Decanter; ‘We had 12mm [of rain] on Wednesday [July 20] morning at le Gay and 5mm at Montviel. For the moment it’s perfect, there’s no stress’.
Temperatures have cooled slightly across the appellation today though look to peak again on Sunday, July 24 with an expected 37°C.
In a final message, the INAO said any breach by growers of the provisions relating to the temporary lift, or the period in which it has been granted, could see a fine of €3,750.