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mardi, 01 juillet 2014

CLIMATIC CHANGES

CLIMATIC CHANGES: THREATS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE VINE


Claude Gilois

There is little doubt that you will find very few climate sceptics in the vineyard. Few doubt that a climate deregulation is taking place and a great deal of winegrowers are already taking various measures to adapt to these changes. Some wine growing areas have benefited so far from these changes (Bordeaux, Piedmont), others, on the other hand, are facing grave consequences of this disruption as indeed some regions in Chile and Australia.

 

There is also little doubt today that the climatic change is not only an increased temperature worldwide over time and that it manifests itself by extreme weather patterns that can be considered more like climatic aberrations and that are more difficult to handle.

 

This begs the question: Is it possible that in the hands of competent viticulturists on great terroirs the threat created by abnormal weather patterns can be converted into opportunities to allow great wines to be made in freak weather conditions?

 

If we look at Alvaro Palacios’ reports on the 2013 vintage, this is what happened in his vineyards of Grattalops in Priorat and in Bierzo. Alvaro’s analyses are precise, subtle and detailed, and they highlight very well the relationship between terroir and weather patterns.

 

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Alvaro describes the 2013 vintage in Bierzo as complicated, but great. It is a vintage where the Atlantic influence overcame the Mediterranean one. We know Alvaro’s preferences for understated and subtle wines.

The weather was atypical and colder than in previous vintages. Rain, a factor of prime importance in Bierzo, was abundant. Alvaro Palacios describes the period of bud break as:  ‘timid and indecisive’ and this of course reduced the yields naturally.  He adds: ‘There were already signs that the vintage would be complex, laborious, but great’, but the situation became even more complicated when hail destroyed part of the crops in prestigious vineyards such as San Martin and El Ferro where the emblematic vineyards of La Faraona are located.   “Summer, we did not see it’ states Alvaro. The temperature was warm, but not hot. This moderate weather pattern provided a slow maturation of the grapes on the vines and picking started in perfect conditions, three weeks later  than usual on 23rd September.   However, yet again, the situation worsened with the arrival of rain of up to 20 mm on some days, but the vines planted on some dramatic slopes, heritage the region ‘s   traditional viticulture showed their resilience to adversity. The altitude, soil,  drainage and minuscule yields allow vines to absorb these adverse weather conditions without compromising the quality of the grapes which are probably used to withstanding these conditions that would cause havoc on lesser terroirs.

 

The wines are fresh, fragrant and delicate, with a lovely mineral component to them. They are floral with a slight smokiness imparted by the decomposed slates of the terroir. They are reminiscent of the first vintages made at the domains where the Mediterranean influence has not overcome the Atlantic one.

 

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Regarding the quality of the vintage in Grattalops, Alvaro Palacios describes it as: “a vintage where quality compensates scarcity”. He remarks: “we obtained exceptional grapes with the greatest concentration in anthocyan we ever achieved at the domain in the last 25 years”.

 

The old Grenache could only produce a third of its usual yield after a disastrous flowering, which was 4 weeks late. The winter was one of the rainiest that was ever encountered in the region (41 and 43 mm of rain in January and February and 200 mm in March and April which of course interfered with the flowering.  Summer was particularly dry with only 28 mm of rain between July and October, and winter was also colder than in 2012 with 14 days of frost in November and December and 12 days In January and February. This resulted in most of the vineyards’ pests to be eliminated.  The late flowering, coupled with the absence of rain during the summer, resulted in the latest picking ever known at the domain. Finca Dofi was picked on 10th October and the Ermita on 4th November. 

 

All these unusual climatic events added up to produce an exceptional vintage, very fresh, seamless and with great depth. The tannins are ripe and the fluidity of the Grenache grape brings spark, vitality and purity to the wine; a great vintage with exceptional keeping potential.

 

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If we hazard a conclusion to this analysis, we can deduce that climatic changes will have a greater impact on industrial viticulture often practised on marginal terroirs. On the other hand, great terroirs in the hands of competent viticulturists have the ability to respond to adversity and even overide the most extreme conditions.

 

 

 

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