I am just back from a rapid ten days in our vineyard / winery in beautiful Cardan, Bordeaux. I like one liners to describe a current status or situation. In the vineyards of Bordeaux, there is one word (expressed three times for emphasis) that best summarises things at the moment. Yes, it is that – Wet Wet Wet!
Early Autumn 2017 was dry and reasonably warm, but as December started, the winter rains began. They haven’t stopped since and are showing no eagerness to cease any time soon. Over 500mm of rain has fallen in four months in a region where the annual average is between 600 – 800mm. As the region transitions slowly into spring, temperatures remain cold and below seasonal averages. Of the ten days that I was in the region, only two could be described as dry and pleasant but the bright blue skies also brought light frost, northerly winds and very cold conditions.
So what does it mean? And does it matter? Well yes and no!
On the negative side, the season is starting late and basic foundational work in the vineyard is now behind schedule and continuing to fall further behind. The biggest constraint is the difficulty in accessing tractors and other equipment onto the waterlogged land. Whatever can be done by hand will have to be completed manually.
The vine canes that have been pruned and are awaiting mulching but will most likely have to be collected by hand and separately disposed. With so much water and humidity at the start of the season, the risk of mildew and disease when the vegetation finally gets growing is very high, requiring multiple organic treatments.
On the other side of the vineyard ledger comes the benefit of a very strong reserve of water. Vegetation and hence canopy will be prolific aiding strong aiding good plant and fruit development. Overall so-called hydraulic stress on the vines will be a lot lower and reserves of water deep down on the soil should still be strong approaching harvest time. With grey skies and cool seasonal temperatures, the vines will be slower to burst their buds and the risk of being caught – as in 2017 – by a late unexpected frost is lower.
In summary therefore, it will be a vigneron’s year – where the difference between good and great fruit will be determined by the skills of the team in the vineyard and not simply by the weather alone. With our hands-on approach at Paradise Rescued, we won’t complain about that as that is an area where we have increasing competence and expertise. That said, it will still be a lot of work. But worth it.
But for the moment the report reads Wet Wet Wet in Bordeaux wine land! Stay tuned and reading here for further updates from our vineyard and winery through season 2018.
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