Bone dry since Brexit – August review

We’ve had an extraordinary Summer. It’s been sunny and hot at times, especially in mid-July and the second half of August – it’s 30°C as we write this and took the photo this morning – but it has been incredibly dry.

Oddly enough, the growing season hinged on the notable date of 23 June. In the three months before the UK voted to leave the EU, Bordeaux saw an average of 20mm of rain per week. (That’s above the norm.) In the 10 weeks since, we’ve had an average of 2mm a week, with just 20mm in total at Bauduc since the day of the referendum. Yes, it’s been dry across the Channel too but, by way of comparison, both the South East and the South West of England have had over 100mm of rain respectively in the same period. Our rows of vines may still be green, but the grass is parched and yellow.

To show just how dry July and August have been, we’ve updated a table of rainfall comparing recent Bordeaux vintages below. Highlighted are the columns of other years that saw low rainfall in the summer months. 2005 and 2010 turned out to be great vintages, while 2012 was good to very good, so we’re ever hopeful.

Despite the recent heatwave and the drought, most rows still look surprisingly verdant and healthy, with veraison or colour change now complete on the grapes themselves. Happily the Spring rain, on top of a very wet start to the year, must have put enough in reserve in the subsoils. The vines have been remarkably resilient but some younger ones with shallow roots on drier ground have really suffered, with the leaves flopping down in sheer exhaustion. A few poor things, with yellow and brown leaves and dried-out bunches, have had it for this year. It’s just been too dry and too hot for too long.

Temperature wise, we had a chillier Spring than the 30-year average: 1.3˚C colder in March, 1˚C in April, May was 0.5˚C colder than the norm and June 1˚C chiller (and 2˚C cooler than 2014 or 2015). July was normal at around 21˚C average and August hotter. One positive thing about the August heat – searingly hot at times with many days in the mid-30s – has been the cool nights. That’s good for the ripening (and sleeping).

The vineyards overall could do with a drink, and we have to rely on mother nature for that as we’re not allowed to irrigate vines in Appellation Contrôlée France – the exception being baby vines that aren’t in production. Not too much rain, mind, just a decent, one-off downpour to freshen things up as we head towards the September and October harvest.

Do follow us and our dogs on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook below – the harvest will begin with the hand picking of our white grapes for our sparkling Crémant within the next week or so.

Useful links:

Bordeaux’s Glorious Summer – my mid-August piece, with photos, for Jancis Robinson and for Liv-ex, the fine wine market exchange.

Mixed cases – the last place to buy our Sauvignon Blanc 2015.

Farmhouse to let during the Bordeaux harvest – 23 Sept to 4 October.

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