La gelée noire... et la grêle blanche
April 13, 2016: violent hailstorm in Macon ... 1 500 hectares affected, with damage reported between 60 and 95% of crop loss ... not new, but unfortunately tragic for many farms ...
April 27, 2016: Dramatic frost
Three weeks have gone by and the consequences are easy to see but very hard to face ; of course, this refers to the frost damage which hit the Burgundy wine lands in the morning of 27 April.
Not one of our association members from the Chablis to the Macon regions was spared.
Some plots, which had never been known to be exposed to this risk, were hit this year because of the rainfall the night before which increased the effects; in fact the last time such a frost had occurred was in 1981.
The extent of the frost damage in the Burgundy area is estimated as follows:
*for 54% (15797 ha) between 0 and 30%
*for23% (6669 ha) between 30 and 70%
*for 23% approx (6784 ha) more than 70%
In those areas the most severely effected, the vegetation growth as a result is very slow and it is not easy to measure the impact on yield but the overall loss will be able to be evaluated according to the growth rate in each individual plot.
There will now be other matters to face: each vine plant will have to be monitored depending on the degree of frost damage or not, in order to assess how the grape harvest must be planned, most probably in several stages over a given period.
13 and 27 May 2016: violent hailstorm in Yonne.
Business and pleasure
The event nobody in the business world of wine can miss, « Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne »will be taking place from 21 to 25 March 2016.
We are looking forward to welcoming you on 23 March from 1700 hrs to 2100 hrs in the cellars of the Château de Chassagne for our exceptional wine-tasting evening, organized by our association of businesswomen in Burgundy wines - "Exception'elles" – another opportunity to appreciate the particularities of our winegrowing land.
A Cistercian monk, Dom Denise, once wrote in his memoirs with reference to the qualities of Burgundy wines that "the charm of the wine emanates from the fragrances drawn from the soil"; indeed, all over Burgundy, the complex geological structure evolved since the beginning of time - whether kimmeridigian or bathonian and bajocian and again Jurassic or rendzines - the wines have captivated the deposits which make them unique in the world of wine. Just as the Pinot noir owes its finesse to the limestone slopes, the Chardonnay grape replicates all the nature of the limestone soils and clayey marls.
And now to the world of the absurd – the war of nettles has been revived!!
Only a few weeks after the COP 21, this natural product, known for ages for its gustatory and medicinal properties, being rich in vitamins and minerals, but also for its use as an insecticide, herbicide and fertilizer is still banned in spite of strong opposition; whether sprinkled on the soil or sprayed it is still against the law!
Between a natural solution of diluted nettles and pesticides what is the alternative? – perhaps the answer is a duck, an excellent and "natural" weedkiller! But no, before nettles, as a natural herbicide, can be used we have to wait until the authorities have given their official approval!
Françoise de Lostende
It is almost a month now that the UN conference on climate change – COP 21 – took place and we are wondering today, early in 2016, what influence politicians will have; insofar as we, as winegrowers, are concerned there is a question which is hard to answer: how will we be affected and will future generations have to change the methods of cultivation in Burgundy?
We have all noticed over the last few years how the harvesting date in Burgundy is earlier, in fact 3 weeks in comparison with the seventies; we have lost some traditional markers such as the 100 day rule, the timelapse between full bloom and harvesting.
A positive feature, however, is the better sanitary condition of the grape and less grey mold.
It has also been observed that the sugar content level is reached far more easily: as chaptalization to 1.5 degrees is permitted in our area this may no longer be necessary in future; but what about the level of acidity, so important for the conservation of our wines?
Experts have forecasted higher yields which may not be in keeping with the required quality of the wine: in a normal year some yields have increased by 50% since 1994 but this has not yet been verified for our area.
The reasons are an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere together with the vitality of the vine as well as higher temperatures giving more bloom; because the time between the grape harvest and when the leaves fall is longer, the capacity of the vine to stock nutrients is greater.
The resistance to disease is an important matter in view of more frequent oidium and infections attacking the wood of the vine ; there are cases of "flavescence dorée" spread by a leafhopper insect as it moves along.
It would seem that the better the maturity of the grape, the better the vintage: however, it appears that the sugar content increases faster than the aromatic substances and as nights are less cool, the question is what impact this could have on the aromatic qualities of the wine.
Should we believe that the intrinsic features of Burgundy wines are threatened? This is another difficult question to answer.
Some climatologists talk about displacing the winegrowing areas; some claim that climate conditions of the seventies have now moved northwards by 100 km. Does this mean that Burgundy wines will be produced in the Champagne district?
To conclude, where is the truth in all these matters? But climate is certainly not the only thing to be considered: the physical nature and the soil of the land are just as crucial together with the sheer skill of the winegrower.
Our thoughts for 2016
With the New Year on the way, it is the moment to express my wish that 2016 will be an exceptional year for you all.
While the 2015 harvest is behind us and appears to be a remarkable vintage, we cannot forget the horrors which occurred and my thoughts are with the victims of Charlie Hebdo and of 13 November – those lost and innocent lives to which I dedicate these few lines. The fanatics, responsible for these acts, have in fact directly attacked our young generation, our way of life in France and our wine....a true rampart against hatred - and what better symbol of unity! Our customers are jewish, christian, orthodox and even muslim and without a doubt, our wines are a means of understanding between all religions and we will continue our lifestyle and never condone violence.
I am optimistic: we must profit from every precious moment in life and show our children that life is great and beautiful!
Our purpose in life is to give pleasure to everyone; our wish is that every bottle opened during this festive season and during the New Year will be an ode to love and life and a homage to all those killed or injured out of sheer hatred – simply because they were leading their lives!
We hope that our readers will come to Burgundy in the New Year and discover or rediscover its magnificent heritage, the multitude of winegrowing "climats" listed in July as a UNESCO world heritage site. In fact, rather like the climats of Burgundy, our association comprises a variety of personalities: 38 exceptional ladies, ranging from Chablis to Macon and dedicated to upholding our skills and traditions, and who meet regularly within the scope of the FevB (Businesswomen in Burgundy wine) – united we stand! Through this association we want to express the feminine outlook –not feminist- one which is educational because the woman is instrumental in the transmission of our particular winegrower's knowledge to future generations. We have been active for 15 years and are determined to develop over the years to come.
In my status as President since 2008 and on behalf of all our members, I wish you a very successful 2016; that this New Year will be joyful and convivial, full of hope, love and happiness – and also a year of pleasure, which is an everyday concern for us, so that our wines can be present on your table and for every memorable occasion.
Présidente of Femmes et Vins de Bourgogne
Esca : cancer of the vine
Esca is an infection affecting wood and spreading over a large proportion of the French and European winegrowing areas.
An article in the French business newspaper, Les Echos on 12 October, referred to an appeal worldwide for research made by the famous Hennessy cognac company – part of the prestigious LVMH group; according to this article, 12% of the vines in the Cognac district are affected.
You may ask why we refer to the Cognac district when we are concerned by Burgundy: well, the reason is simply that an appeal instigated by such a successful and well known group as LVMH can only have a positive effect on other regions, such as Burgundy, where the risks are the same.
Very often professional bodies and the press mention the lower yields of our various appellations but tend to attribute this to climatic factors: we , however, are fully aware that our winegrowing methods are changing and indeed, they must change because only man is responsible for production conditions and the subsequent crop yield: Nature can only return what we invest and it is true to say that for decades we have produced rather like a race-horse but ultimately, the horse ends up in the slaughter-house – just as the vine plant on the bonfire!
Esca is a kind of mushroom which penetrates and develops in the trunk and causes the branches to rot: in 2004, a certain Mr.Florian Bassini wrote a paper which translates freely as follows: On account of the many factors entering into the origin of esca which were found during its study, it would appear necessary to reconsider all those aspects which probably render the vine vulnerable; this is not a means to an end but should set the objective towards an equilibrium between man,the vine, agriculture in general and Nature. Taking all the aspects concerned into consideration should mean that better methods may be found which are more respectful of Nature and make it possible to eventually do away with some methods even though today they may appear indispensable. For example, how can the vine be safeguarded with its own immune system against the effects of infection? (selection and cultivation ...?); What are the different causes which make the vine sensitive to infection? Is a disease necessarily harmful or, could it be regarded as a normal reaction by an organism which is completely off balance?...
I heartily support our colleagues in Cognac in their drive to obtain funds for research work from all sectors of activity concerned by the wine trade such that the future of winegrowing in the long term will be assured, particularly with regards the principle of a balanced eco-system.
We cannot rely on politicians who have no vision and no will to help research: there will be no more votes for that cause!
So is life and we must give all our support to private initiative wherever possible.