Oregon flowering begins at last

As Champagne anticipates its earliest harvest since 2003, a cold, wet spring in Oregon means that flowering only began this month in the Willamette Valley.

Compared with recent years, which have tended to see first bloom occur in around the third week of June, the 2011 flowering did not get underway until 2 July this year. However, Jason Lett, owner and winemaker of The Eyrie Vineyards remained unfazed, pointing to last year’s even later flowering on 10 July.

“While we are a bit late, we are certainly within the realm of normal,” he confirmed, saving his concerns for the “crucial months” of September and October.

Although flowering was delayed this year, the longer, warmer daylight hours of July have meant that it is now advancing very rapidly. Lett observed: “Grapes are especially adept at measuring day length and so they seem to know to make up for lost time!”

Moreover he added: “Weather conditions are forecast to be perfect for the next 10 days so we are anticipating a short bloom period. This should result in particularly even ripeness in the clusters.”

As for the implications of this delay for the vintage, Lett remains unruffled. “You can tell how long a farmer has been in the business by how much they complain about the weather,” he remarked. “Experienced farmers tend to be more philosophical.”

Although a later harvest brings with it the increased risk of overlapping with Oregon’s typically wet winters, Lett was not overly concerned, remarking: “Long range forecasts indicate a warm, dry autumn so in general the mood here is positive.”

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