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Loire wine tours, tastings, day trips from Paris & short breaks organised by experienced English wine trade professionals.

Monday, 4 July 2011

La Secheresse

The dry weather continues here in Anjou and while vines are coping well at the moment our neighbours who are farmers are becoming increasingly distraught about the state of their crops. The maize is short and patchy and the sunflowers are stubby. The potatoes planted in one field where they can't water, have died and they are watering where they can to try and keep things alive but it's proving difficult.

In Anjou in May we had 700 hours of sunshine - a staggering 200 hours above average. I don't have rainfall figures but I can tell you that we have had almost nothing. Downpours have been very localised and sparse. So what impact is this going to have on the vineyards and how are producers going to deal with it?

Damien Richou (pictured above) has left the grass between the rows long. His theory is that if the grass is cut and it rains then it will quickly absorb the rain and concentrate on pushing again. By leaving it long, if it rains, the water will run down the long grass and be absorbed by the earth not the grass. In the picture he is showing us a small parcel of 80 year old vines that were planted by his grandfather. They seem to be coping fine with the dryness due to a well established root system that has long been established.

The river Loire is at an all-time low. As you can see from the picture here, it no longer looks like a majestic river but a series of sandbanks. Hard to believe that in 2007 and 2008, it flooded and prevented us from driving along the river road for several weeks. Boats can just about navigate between the buoys that mark out the only channel deep enough for them to pass.

Irrigation is forbidden under current appellation law so we could have interesting times ahead. As far as the vine is concerned, it continues to flourish but grapes will be small this year, sugars will be high and yields low. Vines have a minimum requirement of water (around 450mm) and if they do not receive enough they can shut down.

We were talking with Xavier (pictured above) of Domaine de Montgilet last week and he was explaining that they have concerns about the vines shutting down due to the dry spell we are having. When vines shut down, the grapes stop maturing and this can lead to a green character in the reds and the cat's pee note that is not very desirable in Sauvignon Blanc.

It certainly makes for an interesting time living in a cool climate wine-making region with huge vintage variation. Each year brings with it its trials and tribulations be it frost, hail, rain or sun.

1 comment:

  1. It's much the same here in Sarthe. Our potato shaws look OK but the yield is poor. Potager watering is still permitted (late evening and early morning) but it is never the same as a good downpour. It's the same with fruit trees - as though they'd decided producing fruit wasn't worth the effort this year. What looks promising are grapes (dessert) on our old vines which are probably about 150 years old and must be rooting far down below the water table. It is worrying that climatic predictions are that 'La secheresse' will become the norm rather than the exception.