Of course the unusually warm autumn must have had some consequences, also for the vineyards, and also in Champagne.
Pruning before the leaves
It was late before all leaves of the vines had finally fallen in 2006.
So late in fact, that many began to prune the vines, while there were still leaves left on the plant. Normally you wait until all leaves are gone.
But it can be necessary to start, if you have a lot of work through the entire resting period of the plants. There will be some days where you cannot work due to frost, so you cannot afford to loose time, even the leaves are still there.
Temperature and rest
The month of November passed with temperatures as high as 18 degrees Celsius. A time of the year where you are more likely to expect white frost on the windscreen of your car in the morning.
It is interesting to consider, which effects it may imply for the restoration of the plant, supposed to take place while the plant lies dormant in winter. Is this period shortened, when the weather gets warmer? How much more warmth does it take to change things as they are today drastically? How much warmth or how short a rest does it take, before you can measure it on the quality and amount of grapes?
I find these questions very interesting. So far I have not really seen much discussion of such subjects, but I am quite sure, that there must be people out there, who investigate these matters. In another 10 years or 20 years the consequences could be far reaching. Since Champagne is a wine area, that can actually afford to pay for research, I suppose, there must be some. Somewhere.
Strange weather in 2006
Most people seem to agree that 2006 offered unusual weather. Also those people who have spent time to check the annals to compare with old collections of weather data. People, who have much more statistical material to document their sayings than for instance I do. I have only lived in Champagne for three and a half years, and I hardly know what normal and extraordinary weather is in this place. For me normal weather is still Danish weather.
But I am interested in the parameters, that help me to take bearing of the normality of this place. I talk with people, of course, and I follow the amount of stories in the local and other papers. And l'Union for instance has written a lot of the very destructive hailstorms of last summer.
Before the heatwave, that brought these wild thunderstorms, we had a cold spring. I still wore my big wintercoat on the 1st of May. Only in the second part of June it got warm. The heatwave was replaced by something that felt like a repetition of the big flood of the Bible in August. And then September came with gentle sunshine, just enough to mature the grapes and pick them under the sun. Since came this very mild autumn, that only in late December changed to real frost for a short while.
The global warming must be one of the hottest topics of these times. How it influences the cycle of the vines in Champagne, I guess is still not very clear. That is until science puts undeniable proof on the table. I just note, that the Dame Nature without doubt has held a rather unusual hand in 2006.
One of them the tears in December. Though - according to the latest edition of Le Vigneron Champenois - there has been no signs of plants actually waking up.
We have only started to prune in 2007, and we have not even seen the shade of any sap. Which suits us fine, we'd rather be without on this side of March.
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Read more about global warming in France here (in French) and here (in French as well).