What’s going on in the Loire valley vineyards in July?

More scorching weather and no rain for weeks. Young vines are dying and many grapes are severely sunburnt. July has been another trying month for growers in the Loire.

After the scorching temperatures at the end of June, things settled and we had a couple of weeks with more normal summer temperatures. Not for long! Along came another few days of intense heat with vineyards suffering under a sweltering 42°C.

Chenin Blanc grapes scorched by the sun last week

It is permitted to water young vines to get them established but growers have struggled to give them enough water to keep them alive. Baby vines need to establish a root structure and are much more sensitive to heat stress and lack of water then older more established vines that have deep seated roots going down many metres. We’ve seen lots of newly planted vines perish which is very frustrating for growers.

Sunburn has been a big problem too as the intense heat reduced grapes to shrivelled raisins in parts of Vouvray and Saumur Champigny. This will have an impact upon volume at harvest, something growers can do without as they have already lost production due to early frosts.

There has been no rain to speak of for more than 45 days. A teensy sprinkle last weekend gave the vineyards 4-5mm of rain. Not enough to make the slightest difference. We really need some good long showers that deliver enough water to nourish the vines and keep them going.

You might think that intense heat is good for grapes but in fact at very high temperatures, the stomata on the underside of the leaves, close up and photosynthesis stops. This leads to a block in maturity. Cooler weather and rain is the key.