2021 Challenging for Vineyards

Les Alexandrins, Rhone Valley

By: - Aug 25, 2021

2021, a year in which wine-growers and technicians have worked hard because quick reactions were needed in the vineyards to save a yield already suffering from the effects of the spring frost.

After a mild winter, a dry mid-spring and a July that seemed more like a November, our wine-growers have really been through the mill.

Between April 1 and August 11, our weather stations posted “record” levels of rain with, in first place, Crozes Hermitage registering 500 mm of water (50 l of water per m2), in second place, Saint Joseph with 470 mm of water and finally Bre?ze?me with 390 mm.

Since the end of June, we have learned to live with water on a daily basis. Morning dews have been very heavy while the frequent storms have been severe and always carry with them a fear of the frosts we experienced in 2019. To sum up, the leaves only begin drying from 10 am, limiting the time in which we can get to work. All this has made it relatively complicated to treat disease.

We took a chance and stripped all the leaves in early July in the hope the bunches would dry more quickly on the basis prevention is better than a cure in the vineyard. Why was this risky? Because once stripped of leaves, the vine is completely bare at grape-height, and should there be a frost, they have no protection. Also, in the event of a severe heatwave, part of the yield will suffer from scorching.

As this is our second year of converting to organic farming and despite using natural products or products made from extracts of plants chosen for their preventative or curative qualities, this risky choice was certainly the right one because, three weeks away from harvest, the grapes are still in good health in most of our parcels.

Let’s hope the weather will be clement from now on and that summer 2021 finally gets started and continues through until mid-October.

2021 leaves us with a feeling that we need to continue to improve our good practices in the vineyard.

A frost on April 8 was normal; what wasn’t normal was how much the plants had already grown by then. That, followed by a month of July with record rainfall, has convinced us that climate disruption is well and truly here.

We favor vines planted close together so that each stock produces less and better, and we have also created high trellising so that each row provides its neighbor with shade. Ground work is thought through to avoid the vines having to compete with grass and we use natural products to steer the vines towards self-protection. This is important work and needs to be taken further.

We know that each year is different from the last, but the year 2021 will go down as one of the hardest - technically, physically and emotionally. And the harvest is yet to come.