Beaujolais affected by adverse weather

The weather woes continue for many vineyards across France and Spain, which have been hit by unseasonal weather. Ideal Wine Company discuss the weather conditions hitting Beaujolais.

While the late spring frosts are finally history, unexpected weather conditions are still taking their toll. For example, some of the 2017 Beaujolais harvest looks likely to have been lost following a brutal hailstorm in mid-July.

The summer hailstorm hammered the Beaujolais region, leading to damaged crops and uncertainty for the vineyards. It’s something that will feel familiar to the vineyard owners, who suffered a similar fat in 2016. However, this year’s storms have caused more damage on a wider scale.

Ideal Wine Company damaged vineyards
Adverse weather has hit vineyards across Europe.

Beaujolais Crus worst affected

Situated up in the north, the Beaujolais Crus vineyard looks to have been one of the worst affected. The storm also hit Chiroubles, Morgon, Chenas, Fleurie, Moulin a Vent and the north of Régnié.

Fleurie is a picturesque village and was one of the worst hit, with the violence of the winds damaging not only the vineyards, but also many houses. The affect on the infrastructure throughout the villages and towns affected show the extent of the storm and the strength of the winds.

Rarely seen tornado

The president of InterBeaujolais, Dominique Piron, said: “It was a tornado. I have rarely seen this. The small hailstones and the wind have a sandblasting effect on the vines.”

The full extent of the damage is still being assessed, and it’s clear that many vineyards and people have been affected. Dominique added: “In our modern world, it is difficult to accept such a sudden event. But it is unfortunately the lot of those who work with nature.”

Run of bad weather

This year has seen a plethora of destructive weather conditions affecting vineyards across France, Spain and Italy.

Late frosts in May and early June, along with freak storms later on in the summer have led to many crops being affected. It is likely to affect both the price and the amount of wine available on shelves next year, although just how much remains to be seen.

Research to Combat Drought in California

Global warming is changing approaches to agriculture and wine growing all around the world. And nowhere more so than in California, which has recently emerged from a devastating five year drought. Ideal Wine Company investigates into the matter.

While the drought is over in many areas, the urgent need to combat expected future droughts is mounting.

Ideal Wine Company california vineyard
Research is continuing to combat the drought seen in California.

Drip irrigation being tested

Wine growers and researchers are working hard to work out ways to grow crops using as little water as possible. One possible solution is subsurface drip irrigation, which places a tiny trickle of water specifically at the roots of the crop. By preventing evaporation, it ensures all the water is used where it’s needed.

So far, it’s being trialled across grain growing land in California in conjunction with the University of California and appears to be working.

Agriculture affected

Vineyards and farms are enjoying a bit of breathing space after the winter brought record rainfall, finally leading to full surface water for irrigation purposes. But scientists and the industry as a whole are under no illusion that a similar drought won’t happen again.

Spencer Cooper is California’s new senior manager of irrigation and water efficiency. He said: “We’re working right now to try to develop more precision irrigation systems and help growers irrigate on a smaller scale.”

It’s not only California’s wine industry that’s at stake. California boasts 80,500 farms, which provide almost three million jobs and irrigation is at the heart of its success. Around a third of California’s 25 million acres of working farmland is irrigated.

When will the next drought be?  
While research is ongoing, it’s possible there isn’t much time left before the next drought hits. There have been two extremely severe periods of drought over the last decade. Stanford University scientists have said that the drought is ‘very likely’ linked to global warming and they expect droughts will become more frequent, last longer and become more severe.

The last drought devastated the agricultural industry, costing more than $5.2 billion. Around 40,000 agricultural jobs were lost and 1 million acres had to be fallowed. Although groundwater pumping was employed on a massive scale, this isn’t sustainable long term.

Scientists, wine growers and the wider agricultural industry agree that lessons have been learned, and growers will be more prepared next time. Precise irrigation, where plants are given a small amount at the root seems to be the best way forward.

UK wine industry is bubbling with confidence

Historically, the UK may not be famous for its wine production, but that’s set to change. This year, British wine producers will plant a record one million vines, which will give growers the tools to make two million more bottles of wine a year. Ideal Wine Company delves into the revelation.

It’s clear that wine is now one of the most impressive and fastest improving agricultural products in the country. During the last decade, according to reports from the English Wine Producers trade body, the grapevines planted in England and Wales have increased by around 135 per cent.

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Will England see more vineyards?

New planters all over the south of England

One of the biggest new vineyards is at Rathfinny wine estate in East Sussex. Close to Afriston, this vineyard has around 400 acres currently under cultivation. It’s owned by Mark Driver, who used to be a hedge fund manager in London. He intends to release the vineyard’s first sparkling wine next year (2018).

Other new planters include two huge champagne houses from France, Vrankin-Pommery Monopole and Taittinger. They’ve announced big wine projects in the south of England in Hampshire and Canterbury.

New UK wine awards introduced for 2017

Due to all of these exciting innovations within the UK, brand new annual wine awards have been introduced. Aimed at finding the UK’s finest wines, the awards are another sign of the industry’s prosperity.

One of the world’s biggest threats seems to have helped improve the growing season in England – global warming. The industry is now viable across the south of England, in some parts of the east and as far as Wales. It’s not the only reason that vineyards are able to be planted now though.

Technology is improving all the time and this is a big factor in the industry’s expansion. Wine growers use meters that can work out grape sugar levels so that wine growers can decide the best time to harvest the grapes. Better weather reports due to improving technology in that area also help the growers and wine makers to work within the famously changeable weather systems in the UK.

Consumers happy to spend more on UK wines

There’s also been a move from consumers to buying more expensive wines, meaning people are happier to buy English wines, which typically start at £10 a bottle. Typical prices for the best sparkling wines, like Nvetimber from West Sussex, sell for around £35.

UK wines have been selling more and more since 2000, with top tier supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer and Waitrose now stocking dozens of different Welsh and English wines. Restaurants are helping the increase in sales too, as English wines are becoming more popular across the board.

Rob Graves is the head of wine and food buying at Harvey Nichols, arguably one of the finest retailers in England. He said: “Sales have been steadily increasing since 2011, but in 2016 we saw a peak in interest. Our customers are hugely supportive of this category and are keen to taste wines from lesser known producers.” Harvey Nichols has recently added four new producers and 15 new English wines to its shelves, from Litmus and Witson, Hattingley Valley and Gusbourne.

It seems the UK wine industry is set to grow and grow.

Severe frost scuppers French crops

An almost unprecedented run of plunging temperatures and frosts have hit vineyards across central and northern France. In the worst run of weather in many growers’ memories, vineyards in Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy have reported extensively damaged crops. Ideal Wine Company reviews.

Temperatures took a hit across all three main wine making regions in France in the last week of April. Reports from across the board show extremes of cold ranging from -7C, hitting vines hard and causing untold damage.

Weather earlier this year was much milder, encouraging early growth of fresh vines. This means the vines had taken hold and were well developed by the time the late sharp spring frosts hit, and it may not be over yet. Growers are concerned for their income and fear that another cold snap will bite before the summer arrives.

Ideal Wine Company damaged vineyards
This year’s crops have been severely damaged.

Preventative measures by wine growers

Winemakers have been using heaters, candles and even the heat from helicopter down draughts to desperately try and save their crops. But it looks like the wine harvest from France in 2017 will be one of the smallest in three decades thanks to the poor timing of the coldest weather.

Experts are reporting that the frost damage is definitely already worse than the extensive problems caused by cold weather in 2016, when the total amount of wine produced in France fell by 10 per cent. Last year the wine region of Champagne suffered the most with a 20 per cent drop in wine output and it looks to be facing a larger loss in 2017.

More crops destroyed than last year

Last year the wine region of Champagne suffered the most with a 20 per cent drop in wine output and it looks to be facing a larger loss in 2017. However, this year in Champagne, around 25 per cent of vines have been completely destroyed already, compared with 14 per cent at this time last year. And that is a conservative estimate according to experts, meaning the damage could be even more extensive.

In Bordeaux it seems there’s even worse news, with estimates coming in of several thousand hectares of destroyed vineyards thanks to the frosts. Some have been damaged between 50 and 100 per cent. Patrick Vasseur from FNSEA, the largest farm union in France, said: “Today we are likely seeing the most important freeze since 1991. And there are more frosts forecast.”

The Cognac vineyard has been similarly damaged and some vineyards were simply completely wiped out in Bugey, near Lyon. In general, low lying vineyards have been the worst affected, as cold air settles low down and therefore they’re more open to frost damage.

It’s not possible to gauge the exact range of damage as it’s unclear until shoots blacken and die. Growers are continuing to take precautions as they wait to see whether the worst is over.