2016: Provence expects early vine bud burst this season

Wednesday March 23 2016 by Vitisphere

In my 25 years as a wine grower, I have never seen a winter like it! ” comments Laurent Rougon, a grower in the heart of the Var region in southern France and chairman of the Var co-operative winery federation. Winter weather in Provence was particularly mild this year, especially in December and February 2016. Average temperatures in February were 3°C higher than in February 2015. “Growing degree-days from a base of 10°C reveal an advance of approximately 20 days on 2015 and two weeks compared with 2014”, confirms Mathieu Combier, viticultural advisor for the Var chamber of agriculture. “It is therefore highly likely that bud burst and the growing season will be early”.

The exceptional weather conditions are responsible for kicking off vine growth, not only in Var but also in neighbouring departments Bouches-du-Rhone and Vaucluse: in the earliest ripening vineyards, wine growers have noticed that vines are beginning to drip sap and buds are beginning to swell, a sign that sap is starting to rise, which is roughly two weeks earlier than the norm. Vineyard development will directly depend on the weather over the coming weeks: “If March cools down, there may only be a little or even no plant growth”, points out Stéphan Reinig, a technician with Vignerons d’Estandon in Var. “We would then go from very early to just early bud burst… So March will set the pace of growth”. In some even earlier vineyards, buds have already started to burst. This is the case in Vaucluse with the Grenache variety and in Var: “I have identified some isolated buds at stage B* in vineyards with the best exposure, facing due South and on the top of hillsides”, says Stéphan Reinig. “Merlot, Chardonnay and Grenache vineyards on terraces have already witnessed budburst”, confirms Laurent Rougon. “We are just a few days away from widespread budburst, and the weather is still very mild”. Usually this does not occur until the end of March, hence vineyards are currently approximately three weeks ahead of ‘normal’ in the area. “In my 15-year career, I have never seen this”, comments the viticultural technician. Early budburst means a heightened risk of spring frost damage in April, which is in the back of every wine grower’s mind. “As we haven’t really had a winter, most people are afraid that the cold may come late”, says Stéphan Reinig.

In the northern part of Bouches-du-Rhone, in the villages of Lambesc and Rognes to be more specific, wine growers are also worried, but for another reason. They are afraid that flavescence doree leafhoppers may hatch early and develop in large numbers due to the mild winter. For the last three years, the area has been affected by the phytoplasma and has had to rip out more and more vines because of it.

 

(*Stage B: buds at the ‘wool’ stage when the scales on the swollen bud open up and the bud down is very visible; this stage comes after bleeding)

 

[ Source: Vitisphere; Photo: IFV ]

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