Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for May, 2011

The Perils of an Early Spring

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I have never seen the like: lush growth and flower trusses on vines as far north as the Loire Valley and Champagne – in April. But the old tradition of  not trusting the season until the days of the ‘ ice saints’ are passed holds good, even in such an unusually warm and early spring.

The ice saints, in case you don’t know, are  Mamertus, Pancras and Servatius. Their festivals fall on May 11, 12 and 13.

At dawn on May 4 the temperature at the southern end of Champagne’s prime Côte des Blancs fell to -2C°. Pierre and Sophie Larmandier who have vineyards in Vertus, Cramanat and Avize (and from them craft wonderful champagne) sent photographs of the frost damage – once proud shoots and flower trusses, now black and shrivelled. They reckon to have lost the crop from just over a hectare of vineyards in Vertus. Fortunately their plots in Cramant and Avize were unaffected, and continue to race ahead, with vegetative growth around three weeks ahead of normal.

Hail, associated with a violent storm that deposited 40mm of rain in the space of a couple of hours on April 25 did considerable damage to some vineyards in Bergerac. Elsewhere in southern France the exceptionally dry spring has some growers worrying already about vines stressed by lack of water.