With the spring drought quickly followed by a washout summer, the grape harvest for 2011 is moving into unknown territory.

Never since detailed records of the weather patterns and harvest begun has there been a year quite like this one – the most similar being 1976 but that was before exact records began, so makes it difficult to compare exactly.  However, the situation is such that this year’s harvest is definitely not typical, and the BNIC has said that they have never seen a year with such hard, dry ground so early in the year followed by the deluge of rain in July.

Whineyard in Charente

Flowering of the vines began in mid-May, meaning that the maturity checks were carried out several weeks early, between 25 July and 01 August.  These confirmed that the harvest in the area of Cognac will most likely be two to three weeks early, commencing around early September.  However, the weather in August will have a bearing on this, so these dates could be subject to change depending on the maturation of the fruit, which could be faster than expected.

The BNIC is warning

The BNIC is warning for vigilance, because the early dry weather has so far helped by a marked absence of mildew.  The rain is necessary, of course, to make the grapes grow plump but rapid maturation can cause the skin of the grapes to weaken.  Combine that with the risk of hot sun in the month of August and this can mean a high chance of an outbreak of botrytis rot – as already seen in Segonzac after the hailstorm and rains mid-July.

Currently the situation in the Charente sees the vines in good health.  It is predicted, if the weather remains kind, that the yield here will be somewhere around 110 hl / ha.  However, the season remains unpredictable and the chances of a highly differential yield in different areas is very strong. Vincent Dumot of the BNIC has warned vineyard owners to remain vigilant.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Mother Nature has done her worst for this year – and that August and September will be a little less extreme.

Source: www.sudouest.fr

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Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.

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