Things heating up in Europe

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Things are heating up in Europe–not just in Greece. A searing heatwave has the continent in its grasp.

Burgundy, which is known for producing wines more winsome than boxum, will have four days in the 100s (39C+) this week–and the balance in the 90s. Yikes. Searing temperatures are expected in Bordeaux, Barolo, Brunello and Britain as well to name a few places starting with “B.”

Generally, grape vines don’t like excessive heat. The later in the grapes’ ripening process the heat wave comes, the more difficult it can be to manage. This pamphlet (pdf) from Australia–no stranger to heat waves with a monster one in 2009 that pushed temperatures up over 100 for 14 days–states that the main effects are a loss of crop and reduction of quality. Mitigation strategies include irrigating vineyards during heatwaves, which may be an option in Barossa but not in Burgundy.

The last heat wave that had in impact on French wine was 2003, which was the hottest summer since 1540. The wines from that vintage got a lukewarm reception initially (except for the shootout at the St. Emilion Corral over the Pavie 2003) and they have aged poorly. Sadly, the 2003 heat wave also accounted for tens of thousands of deaths across France. Fortunately, that isn’t likely to be the case this time around.

Sadly, such hot summers in Europe are likely to become more frequent, even “commonplace” by the 2040s. In a study released last year, researchers from the Met Office, Britain’s weather service, predicted that once every five years Europe will have “a very hot summer.”

While it is too soon to tell how the 2015 vintage will work out, the vines will be under heat stress the next few days. Bonne chance.

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