The grape harvest season has started in France and I would like to take this opportunity to give you a first insight of Alsace wine and the vintage 2012.
When I started working at Armand Hurst beginning of July, wine-growers were in the middle of green pruning (see green pruning in Alsace). After a long and heterogeneous flowering (3 weeks instead of 10 days) and a lukewarm weather (very warm and sunny days followed by rainy days), every wine-grower could tell you that 2012 isn’t going to be the best year in terms of harvest.
The main issue being diseases affecting the vine. Because of this hot and yet wet weather the main diseases that we’ve seen developing are downy mildew (caused by high levels of humidity), oidium or powdery mildew (caused by high levels of humidity and a dry weather) and more recently scalding (caused by an excess of heat) of the grapes.
But how are these diseases developing on the grapes? Basically, mildew and oidium are two types of fungus that will develop under the circumstances mentioned earlier on the leafs and grapes and will spread until the berries split under oidium or rotten under downy mildew, unless, the level of humidity decreases. On the other hand, scalding will simply transform the grape into raisin or give a “sunburn” look to it.
Because of this high pressure of diseases in the vineyard, the only solution to try and protect the growth as much as possible is to treat the vine. Treating the vine can be the answer to each and every problem unless you’re practising Integrated Pest Management (IPM), organic farming or biodynamic farming. In that case, the products used will be chosen very carefully and it can quickly become a nightmare for the wine-grower to deal with these diseases, especially the fungus type. Regarding scalding, the best way to avoid it is to leave the leafs on the vine in order to protect the grapes, but this can be quite difficult for a wine-grower to do as leaving the leafs can also be roots of humidity on the grapes.
You’ve understood it, in an ideal world, wine-growing would be the nicest and most peaceful job in the world. But since this is not the case, and this year is a proof of it, wine-growing is a science that needs to be know and understood as much as possible in order to get your much needed amount of grapes to the cellar. To finish on a good note, according to medias even though 2012 has been a tough year and wine-growers will see their harvest quantity decrease, it shouldn’t affect the quality of the vintage…bad news for us, consumers, it most certainly means that prices will rises for the vintage 2012.