13 September, 2000

Morning fog advances disease

Fog advances disease. Verzenay in Montagne de Reims.

The harvest of the grapes have begun. The generel reports on the quality of the berries are good: Big grapes, that have what it takes: High weight, big berries and a good mix of sugar and acidity. But also worried voices interferes in the cheres, and it is not just a matter of farmers complaining.

The weather that since July has provided us with such graciousness and supplied the wine with a perfect mix of water and warmth has turned autumnal. It is still mild under a grey September sky, and the most picturesque morning fog wraps the wine, the forrest and the villages in its airy quilts the major part of the morning. And the air is heavy with moisture.

Unfortunately that is very favourable conditions for several of the diseases you certainly do not want to see your grapes catching just three days before the harvest.

Growth of Botrytis
Especially the Botrytis (pourriture grise) has very good development conditions at the moment. Mainly the red Pinot Noir and Meunier-grapes in the Marne area has caught the disease, but with such optimum conditions for the fungus as currently everybody must be aware.

CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne) writes in its latest evaluation of the current state - it came yesterday - that one out of five grapes is hit. From following the former messages - the first one came August 22nd and the latest September 12th - we have seen, how the frequency at the moment develops very fast.

This probably means that we on Saturday will start with the red Pinot Muenier to avoid more botrytis than what is already there. If the conditions were different we would have been more likely to start with the white Chardonnay-grapes, whose level of sugar at the moment provides a potential of alcohol of more than 10 %. The Meunier-grapes are halv a percentage below, but with the increased risk of disease they will still most probably go first.

For those who have caught the major part they may have had to start harvesting before the settled date. How bad things will be, depends purely on the weather. That is how much fog, warmth and moist air the next days will bring.

Warm weather for wine
A farmer is a farmer when you talk about the weather. And a winegrower is not much different. You may have done a great job in your parcels all through the year. Pruned well, tied up well, lifted the wires at the perfect time and spread chemicals and cut the leaves in the top and on the sides. The last ace will still always belong to the weather.

Since the wine started to grow in the early spring, the conditions has been very good. The weather may have seen incredibly changing not to say moody when experienced by an urban dweller. Sometimes heat wave with tremendous thunder showers. March offered first a lot of snow and later early heat. April was two degrees Celsius below the normal average. May was cold. It was not many days the light summerdresses left their hangers. And then in the second half of June the heatwave arrived with 40 degrees Celsius in the sun. Since then the weather has shifted between warmth and rain.

But do not let yourself be cheated by the unstable impression. In July the temperatures still passed an average of 19,1 degresse Celsius which is half a degree more than usual. And the wine has had a great summer.

Pinot Noir dressed for fall at Verzenay.

Enough heat at the times - to wake up in March, to develop leaves in April, to flower in June and to mature in August - and on top of that enough water to form the big grapes of this year. With an average weights of 170 grammes most certainly in the high range of what could be expected.

So now we just cross our fingers that the botrytis will seek other parcels than ours the last few days to go.

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