Drought threatens French vineyards | Wine-Searcher News and Features

Our weekly roundup reveals other weather issues for French growers.

© Reuters
| Despite a week of rain, many vineyards in France do not have enough moisture in their soils.

If that’s not one thing, it’s another, and French winegrowers are facing yet another challenge from Mother Nature.

While last year saw devastating frosts, this year’s problem is drought, despite turbulent weather across the country this month. Further on we have Rioja under the microscope and the return of a batch of wine that has been lying at the bottom of a lake for four years.

Read on for more news you might have missed this week.

Drought threatens the French vintage

Not enough rain in May, French wine news site Vitisphere.com said this week after several days of wet weather and storms across the country do not appear to have raised water levels in the ground .

“Nobody will talk about drought for a week, as the rains from the thunderstorms have stabilized the situation, but this reset does not mean that we have moved on from the lack of water,” said meteorologist Serge Zaka.

Although it seems that the majority of winegrowers have escaped the frost season this year, regions, including the Rhône, had already started the growing season with worrying ground water levels. Vineyard development in the region is already about a week ahead of last year (2021 was a relatively standard year in terms of growing season), mainly due to recent warm weather.

With prolonged dry weather throughout winter and spring, it looks like other major French wine regions will also face drought conditions unless more rain falls next month.

“At the end of a particularly hot and dry month of May, the recent rains have not yet changed the current tendency of the vintage towards drought”, wrote Alexandre Abellan in Vitisphere.com this week. According to the report, a large part of France is under threat.

“If we were only concerned with the month of May, it would have only been an early heat wave,” said Emmanuel Buisson of the Nantes weather service Weenat. “But there has been a buildup.”

Although recent rains have been abundant in places, much of it falls on already very dry ground. According to reports, the situation is potentially critical throughout the Mediterranean, Alsace, Burgundy, Champagne, Cognac and the Rhône.>

“[Weather] conditions in early June will be decisive in determining whether the drought returns,” Zaka said.

Rioja winemaking under the microscope

The most tech-savvy winemaker in Spain’s northern Rioja wine region now has nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging. According to the Europa Press news agency, scientists from the Haro Wine Center, together with researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the Polytechnic of Turin have developed a program, using NMR, to measure the phenolic profiles of different wines. through vinification and ageing.

In their research paper submitted to the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture late last year (Monitoring of the Rioja red wine production process by 1H-NMR spectroscopy), the team could measure levels of phenolic compounds more small in wine such as resveratrol, gallic acid and catechin.

This can have a number of applications, including the analysis of the phenolic maturity of grapes. According to Europa Press”[NMR] is used both for the quantification of different compounds and to guarantee their origin and quality, an aspect of great importance in products with geographical protection and identity.”

A team of boffins has been set up in Haro to handle the new tool.

The vineyard takes off in Normandy

As part of what surely has the legs to become a regular segment on viticulture enthusiasts planting vines in unusual locations across France, we are traveling this week to Normandy in northern France. Local newspaper Le Perche reported on Wednesday that farmers Brigitte and Denis Pasquer had planted 1,500 vines on their land in Montagne-au-Perche, in the Orne department, just east of Alençon and 130km ( 80 miles) west of the outskirts of Paris.

The couple, who were given the go-ahead to plant the grapes on their Le Gros Chêne (“The Big Oak”) farm by French customs officers last summer, plan to plant another 1,500 vines by summer 2023. grapes are hybrids, with about half of the vineyard devolved to Floréal and the rest split between Muscaris and Sauvignac.

Another encouragement came from an understanding of the soil profile of the farm.

“I am a farmer, I know my soils”, declared Denis Pasquer. “We have a very stony clay-limestone soil. We did some research and decided to give it a go.

According to the newspaper, production of Gros Chêne’s first dry white wine is expected to start by 2025, although the Pasquers have yet to name their cuvée or estate. If the Pasquers had any illusions about the cost of setting up on their own, their local reporter was obviously realistic.

“In the meantime, they’ll have to build a winery close to the farm and source some second-hand equipment to get a decent result without breaking the bank,” the newspaper said – hopefully paraphrasing the pair.

Nevertheless, the farmers were keen to point out that not only were they going into the project “for fun” and that “money was not the motivation”. Brigitte Pasquer, however, pointed out that the majority of these quirky stories of plants and grapes from the French region seem to hover over them: climate change.

“With global warming and rising temperatures, with good soils it is possible to make wine north of the Loire,” she said, echoing what British winemakers have been saying for decades. .

The wine of the lake resurfaces

What goes down must go up. Not the latest slogan for a new emetic but rather 5,000 bottles of Savoie Chignin-Bergeron from producer Domaine Perceval that had been sunk in Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman as it is known locally) and left for four years to be fished out on Last weekend .

The wines were immersed in a cage 36 meters below the surface of the lake (near Évian-les-Bains on the French side of the body of water shared with Switzerland) and at a temperature of eight degrees Celsius (46°F). A diver was sent to find the treasure before a floating crane lifted a shellfish-encrusted cage to the surface.

Once the initial drama passed and it turned out that the wines had survived (scuba diving thieves? krakens? trout coming home after a heavy night around Geneva?), the wines were simply good.

The wine was “totally different from what we have in the cellar”, winemaker Flavy Péra told regional radio France 3.

According to winemaker Pascal Perceval (whose other stunts include freezing-concentrating grape must in the Mont Blanc massif to produce a sweet white “Vin de Glaces” from Jacquère and immersing barrels of Roussanne, also known as the name of “Bergeron” in Savoie, in an alpine lake), four years under water is equivalent to between 12 and 16 years of ageing.

So if you can’t wait for your latest Bordeaux purchases, all you need to do is find a suitable body of water, a floating crane and a scuba diver.

The wine retails at €30 (US$32) a bottle.

Wine thrown on the ground at the Paraguayan border

Classic scenes from a border town in Encarnación, Paraguay, where an irate motorist was filmed throwing crates of wine on the ground after Paraguayan authorities in the border town ordered him to return the purchased crates to the side Argentinian from the border.

Rather than return the wine, the woman was filmed opening the trunk of her car and dropping the boxes on the floor, smashing the bottles inside. Neither the identity of the bottles nor the expressions on the faces of the border agents are visible.

Current exchange rates are favorable to Paraguayans who would cross the border to stock up on goods in neighboring Argentina. Argentine flour, oil and wines are particularly popular, according to regional newspaper Misiones Cuatro.

Encarnación is on the other side of the Paraná River to the city of Posadas in northern Argentina. The two cities are connected by the 2.5 km (1.5 mile) long Posadas Bridge.

To join the conversation, comment on our social media.

Comments are closed.