21 August, 2001

Time for holidays

Meunier-vines at Loisy-en-Brie, August 2006.

Winegrowers are always on holidays in August, bacause there is not a lot to do in the vineyards around this time. We are no exception. Tomorrow we will drive to the sea, the big ocean, the main lack of Champagne.

Even it has rained just about all August. The next week is supposed to be similar according to the météo. The only thing to experience here seem to be more floodings, erosion and soakingly wet and grey days.

Bad news travel fast
Alain has not been in the vines since August 15th, but we will always get potentially bad news - should there be such - from friends and/or family that grow the vines next to ours.

If the sun for instance should be back to peep out some seconds, disease may develop very fast - water and heat is excactly what it takes - and it could be necessary to spray chemicals.

Grapeharvest coming up
The next thing on the winegrower's agenda will be the vendange. We have not really heard any rumours but expect to begin around September 11th.

The professional part of the website of the CIVC still contains no information on the vendange coming up. If the unusually cold and wet month of August has delayed the maturation so much that the general start dates will be later than the first expectations, we will know more about, when the holiday is over.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

19 August, 2001

Serious toy

Maybe the toy can be used in a more serious way too.

I remember the first time I saw the quad very well. Even I have always known, that Alain prefers machines powered by oil rather than ryebread - and I am just the opposite I guess - I still was surprised. I had never seen such a toy before. Such a useless toy for grown up children with too much money to spend.

Now, I do not know if it is a dull, Danish protestant up-bringing, that puts its head out in this way... or a more practical, female way of deciding how to use your monthly wages in a smarter way. How about a new wardrobe for new season, for instance.

Anyway, you normally do not use this kind of thing in the town. Not in Denmark, and I suppose not in France too. Here in the countryside they are popular from an early age. I guess that these motorcycles with four wheels are more interesting in the countryside anyway. You need good hilly land to enjoy the fun more, I guess.

In Champagne one of the winegrowers in the Vallée de la Marne close to Épernay offers trips in his vineyards with the quad. He says to the local newspaper l'Union, that the income from his quad-activities are close to pass those from the champagne. Not bad. Maybe we could find a future for the quad of Alain that makes sense. Right now it has not left the garage more than once in four years.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

17 August, 2001

Grapes change colour

Everything looks nice in Losy-en-Brie.

An August never measured colder has replaced three weeks of heatwave. Last Sunday the lowest average temperature ever for an August 13th was measured. 13 degrees Celsius, approximately 10 degrees lower than ordinary for this time of the year. Still the grapes have seen the sun enough to have started changing colour, and the weather forecast service has talked about temperatures on the rise again.

The vine is up for the last part before the grapeharvest: Maturing the grapes. Even they have not yet grown to their full size. Water however is still crucial to secure further growth. And rain we have most certainly had.

The heaven opened all flood gates the major part of Sunday, and here on the northern slopes of the Montagne de Reims it orchestrated rain all day of dimensions that must have come close to those of the big flood. 55 millimetres of rain fell during a extremely grey and dull and wet day. In our area south of Vertus there was 10-20 millimeters less, and we could see as we drove through the Côte des Blancs - between Louvois and Vertus - the other day that the ditches were hardly carrying any rain at all. The differences are rather big between the different geographical areas even the distances are not that long.

Water for the vine
In the wake of the heatwave the winegrowers pledged for water. At some point the grapes will need water to continue their growth. The water certainly has arrived now, for two weeks we have not seen much but rain, and no days have been worse than last Sunday. But if one effect on the side will be big grapes is still too early to say.

Even the disease botrytis so far has not shown up, it does not mean that we have no disease. The Esca is still around.

Tuesday - bankholiday - Alain passed by Loisy-en-Brie to check the condition of the vines. After days of rain there has been some dry days, which normally mounts the risk of disease.

So far everything seems to be fine... but as he says, you do not want to see any botroytis, mildew or whatever at all so you rather spray with chemical as soon as the rain stops. And we do see several who are out with their tractors. But not in our vines, because the guy who deals with that is on holidays all August.

Chardonnay-grapes at Loisy-en-Brie, August 15th 2006.

Meunier-grapes at Loisy-en-Brie, August 15th 2006.

The grapes are now maturing. The Meunier has begun to chance colour from all green into bluish. Of course they still need a lot of sun or at least elevated temperatures before they will be ready.

If the grapeharvest is likely to start on September 11th is still too early to confirm. We do not expect to know yet anyway. It is normal only to know the excact date two weeks before.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

08 August, 2001

Global warming in Champagne

If these grapes are to follow the trend, they will be ready to harvest in the middle of September. Several weeks before the days of Alain's grandfather.

Once upon a time, the winegrowers in Champagne had to cover the maturing grapes with big nets. Otherwise the fruits were eaten by birds. Today the grapes are harvested before the migrating birds show up, says my mother-in-law, who has not yet turned 75 years.

In 2004 - the year of records when it comes to the amount of grapes - we could see how the winged guests were having great eating parties with the Chardonnay-grapes that were left on the vines, when we drove through the Côte des Blancs. Like black clouds the birds rose and hastily dived over the vines. Since then I have heard that accidents happen every year in the autumn, caused by drivers, whose eyes follow the fascinating sight, instead of the road.

Birds or not: The nets have not for years and years left the shed of the long-gone Granddad of Alain's. They tell their own story of a region that has become warmer.

More vintages
One indicator is the amount of vintage champagnes - millésime - that seems to be on the rise. They are only made in years, where the grapes are extra good, that is when the inner balance between sugar and acidity is phenomenal, mainly in years with a lot of sun.

Traditionally the geographical area of Champagne is on the northern limit of where it is still profitable to grow wine on a larger scale. Further north there is simply not enough hours of sun to ensure the maturation of the grapes. Or at least was not, because it seems that the pattern is changing these years.

During the 1990'ies there has been more and more vintages in Champagne. In the past vintage champagnes was the exception, now the tendency seems almost excactly the opposite. In the 1990'ies nine out of 10 years were good enough to make a vintage, in the 1980'ies six out of 10 were exceptional and in the 1970'ies the number was four out of 10. On the other side of the millenium the development so far continues: The last three years 2003, 2004 and 2005 are all millésime.

The increased possibilities to produce vintage champagnes makes it possible to make more money per bottle as well. In other words it is a way to increase the economical growth in the region without the need of more grapes. Quite important in an area where almost all possible land within the AOC is now planted with grapes. This means that noone can easily go out and get more grapes to produce more bottles. However, it is not clear - for me anyway - if there are actually customers for more expensive champagnes.

Good grapes with an almost perfect balance between acidity and sugar is one of the positive effects of the global warming. Unfortunately other and less convenient consequences follow in the wake.

New temperatures, new customs
The big question is when the advantage will turn into the contrary. When the sun will be too much, when the grapes will mature too fast and therefore become too sweet. Which will mean more alcohol, which the producers - traditionally anyway - have not wanted. If the inner balance of the grapes will change, this will also affect the taste. The characteristic freshness of a champagne - some call it sour - originates from grapes, that has not fully ripened at the time of harvest.

A way of dealing with this could be to harvest before... or maybe change the production methods. New methods may have to be developed, just as the champagne has constantly been developed throughout the centuries... other varieties may be introduced, new ways of pruning.

Already by now there is a lot of media fuss about the new, sparkling wines from Southern England. In blind tests and world wide competitions they have beaten more or less all other sparkling wines that are not champagne. Names as Chapel Down, Ridgeview and Nyetimber are certainly interesting, and they seem to enjoy emphasizing that they are not up for sale when noble and indeed well established CEO's of real champagne houses pop by Kent and Sussex to check out the possibilities of buying shares, The Brits now want to deal with it themselves, if you please...

The grapes move north
On top of the classic champagnes grapes - Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay - vines that are today typical of the Bordelais are in the year 2100 expected to thrive better in Southern England than in the area around Bordeaux. The Rhône-valley can expect to see vines of the same type as today in Marocco and Algeria, and the Italian Chianti may grow excellently in the German valley of the Rhine. The condition is temperatures three-four degrees Celsius more than today, and the predictions are most certainly serious (printed in Le Figaro July 29th-30th, source: Sciences et Avenir).

According to the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne) the temperature in Champagne has risen 0,6 degrees Celsius during the last 50 years. Since the 1980'ies the grapeharvest has typically taken place in mid September rather than the beginning of October as in the old days of Alain's grandfather.

With other words only an increase of half a degree has been enough to speed up the grapeharvest with three weeks. It is almost imaginable what influence an increase of three-four degrees will have.

Another effect of the warmer weather is more frequent and violent storms. This July hail destroyed about 2500 hectares of vines in Champagne. I presume this is the kind of weather that will be more common. Unfortunately.

An American researcher, who has worked with the influence of the global warmning on the vineyards, Gregory Jones from the University in Oregon, last month said to La Journée Viticole, that "even there is still a lot of uncertainty around the climatic changes, this does not entitle lack of action".

Only champagne from Champagne
What the CIVC - key organisation of the champagne - will do regarding the global warmning, I do not know. But I presume, that all organisations that in one way or another deals with people who make their living from the land, must have a big interest in finding ways for their clients to adapt to the new challenges. In Champagne one of the big advantages is that the winegrowers can actually pay for research and development. Since they make money.

The events in the cycle occur with a shorter distance, here flowering.

Shorter intervals around the globe
Researchers and institutions around the world have documented that the different events in the vineyards - burst, flowering, harvest - is not only taking place earlier in the season but also with shorter intervals between the events than before. Not just in France but also in places such as New Zealand and the USA.

The many and good millésimes of the last years in Champagne is also a documented effect of the global warming. An earlier date of the buds bursting as well, which may eventually be less fortunate in an area like Champagne with its constant risk of frost in spring. Just three percent of the vines are protected against frost.

The warming has also changed the frequency of different diseases. The disease Esca - which we unfortunately know all to well here - is according to Wine-Pages a phenomenon that sadly is spreading.

My mother-in-law, who not even knowing this has had an excellent view of global warming from the very front row, has probably never seen the different effects of warming in that way. Instead I guess that she has been quite satisfied that it is no longer necessary to protect the grapes against birds. One manual task less that is.

Eventually there will be a big intellectual and practical task to find find new methods for the vines. New vines as well, I guess.

However, no matter what grows in the vineyards of Champagne, no matter how many Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay the chalky soils of Kent may contain, I am quite sure that the CIVC will still stick to their "Il n'y a que champagne de Champagne". No matter what grapes will make the bubbles.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

06 August, 2001

Looks like vendange Sept. 11th

Meunier-grapes on their way - there is still a long way befure maturity.

The priest in Vertus is up with the first hint... regional paper l'Union and the professional press soon agrees... September 11th seems most likely as the first day of this years grapeharvest.

It is almost two weeks before the date you reach if you count the 100 days on top of the period of the flowering. Three weeks of heatwave is what it takes to change anything in nature - all the way from catastrophy to saved by the bell and vice versa.

This year it mainly implies, that the rather late development of the vines because of the cold cold spring, now has been more than caught up with. The grapes have developed nicely and are in generally good health, even there has been attacks by mildew and oïdium.

The technical director of the CIVC, Dominique Moncomble, does not restrain himself from calling the grapes of the year in the Champagne crayeuse (Chalky Champagne) for "georgeous" (l'Union).

Our Meunier-grapes grow in the fringe of the Champagne Crayeuse.

The grapes are expected to carry around 18.000 kilos of grapes per hectare, only 13.000 kilos per hectare is loíkely to be authorised. Which means that there is no usage of the extra 5.000 kilos of grapes, not for champagne anyway.

Anyway it is still too early to look forward to a good grapeharvest. With more than one month to go, disease may still strike, and at the moment the grapes still need water to continue the good development. Which they have had so far, not enormously amounts, but so far what they needed.

The worst climatical accident of the year so far still seems to be the violent thunderstorms that whipped their way through the Vallée de la Marne in early July. 650 hectares of vines were destroyed completely and 2.500 hectares were damaged.

What is left now is mainly to wait... and keep an eye on a satisfactory development.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

02 August, 2001


Meunier-grapes in Loisy-en-Brie July 21st.

The weather has changed a few days ago... the heatwave of the last many weeks is over and now we have really low temperatures... from more than 35 degrees Celsius in the shade we have passed to just around 20.

Alain is happy about it... after all the warmth, that has been really good for the grapes and made them grow greatly sizewize, it is now important with water to make the berries continue keeping the good size and not later on dry out.

The vines in Loisy-en-Brie.

I should say I suppose that the pictures are from the last days of the heatwave. Now the weather is all grey and the clouds carry rain.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.