Bordeaux harvest hit by mildew

20th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

BORDEAUX, France, July 20, 2007 (AFP) - The 2007 Bordeaux wine harvest has been severely hit by mildew problems due to warm wet weather, and the spread of the disease could lead to some growers losing 20 to 50 percent of their harvest.

BORDEAUX, France, July 20, 2007 (AFP) - The 2007 Bordeaux wine harvest has been severely hit by mildew problems due to warm wet weather, and the spread of the disease could lead to some growers losing 20 to 50 percent of their harvest.

"It's been raining heavily throughout May, June and July," said Jean Christophe Mau, who has two chateaux in Bordeaux, Chateau Brown in Pessac Leognan, and Chateau Preuillac in the Medoc.

"At first mildew was on the leaves, but it has now spread to the grapes," he said. "Once there is brown rot on the grapes, there is very little you can do."

"At Preuillac there is zero mildew problem, but at Brown I have a few vine areas where there are no grapes left," added Mau who estimates he will lose about five percent of his merlot crop.

Merlot, an early ripening grape that represents about 70 to 80 percent of vines planted in Bordeaux, has been particularly badly hit.

The damp conditions -- also creating havoc for holiday makers in the region -- combined with a few intermittent days of sun have been ideal for mildew, a type of fungus which grows on leaves and can spread via the sap to the entire plant.

According to the national weather service Meteo France, this year in the Bordeaux area 140 millimetres of rain fell in May, 60 in June, and in July so far 20 to 30 millimetres.

In 2005, the so-called vintage of the century due to near perfect weather conditions of hot dry days and cool nights, May had only 16 millimetres of rain, June 30, and 10 millimetres in the first half of July, while average temperatures were higher in all three months.

Lionel Burosse, a mildew consultant who works with CIC, a Bordeaux based company which sells anti-mildew products, says double the number of treatments have been necessary this year. His sales are up 10 to 20 percent compared to this time last year.

"The number of treatments needed this year has been between nine and 11," said Burosse. In 2005 vines were only treated four to six times, he said, and in 2006, which was damp at the start of August, six to eight times.

"The brown mildew is the worst, it destroys everything green," Burosse said. His estimate was that growers in the 1,000 hectare area he covers could lose up to 20 percent of their production.

Other experts suggest losses could be higher. "There are some growers who will lose up to 50 percent of their final production," said Guillaume Girard, of the national crop advisory and protection service, SRPV.

"Mildew is generally very present in the region this year, but it is not clear which areas are the most affected," he said. Entre deux Mers, the north Medoc and western Bergerac areas have all been affected, said Girard. "But, for example Pomerol [which is mainly merlot], has hardly been hit at all."

Girard said growers with good technical expertise had been better at preventing the spread, and agreed it was partly a question of money. "For de-leafing and green harvesting and anything that contributes to aerating the vines, manpower is involved and that costs money, but helps to prevent the spread," he said.

De-leafing is the process of pulling individual leaves off vine plants, and green harvesting involves picking off bunches of grapes to improve the quality of those left behind. Both are done by hand.

Girard also pointed out that lower yields however need not mean lower quality wines as mildew does not affect the taste of the wine in the same way other diseases do.

Asked about potential losses, the Bordeaux wine growers syndicate, the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux) said it was too early to tell.

"We are in July, it is impossible to say," said Roland Feredj, CIVB director. "There are people who will simply diminish their green harvest. It will certainly cost more this year but the disease has been with us a long time and we have been managing it."

There is also the chance that with a decent period of dry, sunny weather with temperatures of over 30 degrees, the mildew would be killed off.
 
Unfortunately, the weather outlook, for both wine and holiday-makers, is not optimistic. "It's not looking good," Girard said. "There is a risk of storms and high temperatures - good mildew conditions."


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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