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Drought in France forces historic harvest earlier

The landscape in the prestigious vineyards of Bordeaux looks as usual, with clusters of fat and mature grapes hanging from the rows of green vines, but this year is different in one of the most famous wine regions of France and in other parts of Europe.


The harvest that began in mid-September was earlier than ever, ahead of mid-August, due to severe drought and the adaptation of the wine industry to the unpredictable effects of climate change.

Paradoxically, the season of heat waves and forest fires produced excellent grapes, although lower yields, but achieving such a harvest forced creative changes in cultivation techniques, such as pruning the vines differently and watering them in places where irrigation is generally prohibited. In addition, growers across Europe who have known the effects of global warming are worried about what will come next.

So far, «global warming is very positive. We have better maturity, better balance… , but if you look to the future and raise the temperature one more degree, you lose the freshness part of the wine balance,» said Fabien Teitgen, technical director of the Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, a vineyard that grows organic grapes for wine in Martillac, south of Bordeaux.

Winegrowers adjusted their practices amid a series of heat waves combined with rain shortages that affected most of Europe. In the Bordeaux region of south-west France, huge fires destroyed large swathes of pine forests. It did not rain from late June until mid-August.

Dozens of workers kneeling in the vines harvest the grapes by hand and place them in baskets. The fruit is immediately crushed to make juice, which is poured into tanks and then barrels to start the winemaking.

This is how the white wine of the famous variety Pessac-Léognan is produced. Soon after the harvest will come for the red wine.

Eric Perrin, one of the owners of the Château Carbonnieux, recalled that, during his childhood, in the 1970s, the harvest began in mid-September. This year began on August 16. But the 2022 harvest may be the best, Perrin said, because the grapes are healthy and well balanced. Warm, dry weather prevented the vines from contracting mold and other diseases.



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