Last week, France – and much of the rest of Europe – saw an unprecedented heatwave for this time of year, a heatwave that broke many records. While these high temperatures were welcomed with open arms by some producers, they can be disastrous for others. We explain why.
Harmful effects of the heatwave
In the department of the Gard and Hérault, temperatures reached record-breaking highs, reaching 48°C in the hottest areas, burning grapes and drying the leaves. Some winemakers compared the damage to that of “a blowtorch through the vines”. Unfortunately, even indigenous varieties such as Mourvèdre and Carignan, known for their resistance against drought, were victims of the heat. Several thousand hectares of vines are estimated to have been affected.
Benefits of the heatwave
On the other hand, producers in some regions were overjoyed by the heatwave, particularly in Bordeaux, Alsace and Champagne. As the heatwave was relatively short-lived, it caused hydric stress beneficial to the vines, which react by dedicating all of their energy to the grapes, rather than the plant’s leaves.
Consequences of the heatwave
Winemakers are always the first to admit that in the face of nature, they are powerless. To carry on producing great wines, though, it’s essential that they find solutions to these kinds of unexpected occurrences. This kind of heat changes the organoleptic profile of grapes, increasing the sugar level and thus the alcohol.
Questions regarding irrigation arise, a practice that is banned in France (except for a few singular cases) and a debate is emerging, a debate that we’ll be following with interest and of course, you’ll be the first to hear…