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2015 heat sparks memories of 2003

A July heatwave across much of northern Europe has led several winemakers to draw comparisons with the notoriously hot 2003 vintage.

Although many regions still have at least a month to go until harvest, the 2015 vintage looks set to be shaped by the hot, dry summer conditions that followed what was for several regions a slow, cool start to the growing season.

“The scorching heat in July was highly reminiscent of 2003,” remarked Julien Brocard of Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis. “The vines have now gone without rain for over a month and a half.”

As a result of these extreme conditions, Brocard confirmed that the estate had brought forward its provisional harvest date by just over two weeks to 10 September.

Hoping for some rain in the coming weeks, he observed: “Today we have the structure of the future 2015 vintage wines, all we need now is a little bit of water to produce the necessary quantities in each parcel. If it rains during summer, we’ll be able to fix the harvest date and obtain superb maturity levels!”

Similar conditions were reported by Jean Frédéric Hugel of Famille Hugel in Alsace. “So far, the vines are in great shape,” he observed, “But this very dry weather is starting to last rather a long time and we need to be extremely vigilant.”

Alongside this drought, Hugel pointed to recent temperatures of 37°C as he added: “The extremely hot weather is also putting young vines and the light, dry soils under considerable stress.”

He too compared 2015 with 2003, although noted: “I don’t think we’re quite at the same level in terms of early maturities.”

This point was also made by Ernst Loosen of Dr Loosen, across the border in Germany’s Mosel Valley. “So far it looks like 2003 in terms of heat accumulation, but in 2003 budbreak was four weeks earlier,” he commented, noting that he currently expected to harvest his Riesling in the last week of September – two weeks later than in 2003.

In contrast to the dry conditions in much of France, Loosen reported that the Mosel vineyards had been helped by some welcome breaks in the weather.

“Three weeks ago, we got 8 litres of rain (8mm) on the weekend, which was very helpful,” he recorded. “Last week it was cooling down and we got another 18 liters of rain (18mm). It came just the right time and helped a little bit against the drought.”

So far the hot weather conditions have continued into August, although many parts of northern Europe have rain forecast for the end of this week.

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