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2014 – the year of the drought?

Posted by on 20 Jun 2014 in News | 0 comments

2014 – the year of the drought?

Jean-Dominique is worried. He is an agricultural engineer who consults to over 50 vineyards from Frontignan to Fitou and he has never seen a year like it. If 2003 was the year of the canicule ‘heatwave’, 2013 of the latest vintage in the last 25 years then 2014 is shaping up to be one of the driest the Languedoc has seen for a long time.

It is only mid June but in terms of water stress, many vineyards are experiencing conditions usually found in mid August. In extreme cases this causes the vine to stop vegetative growth, leaves yellow prematurely and so there are not sufficient functioning leaves for photosynthesis to bring the crop to full ripeness. Vines may die. Many IGP vines have drip irrigation (there are many subsidies on offer to entice viticulters to install it) but AOC vines are not allowed to irrigate unless the year is exceptionally dry. 2014 certainly qualifies and in many AOCs growers are now able to apply for the right to irrigate. But practically, it can be difficult if there is no water source nearby.

Our vineyards at Lou Cayla look extremely healthy but vegetative growth is definitely more limited that in previous years. Water stress has also caused some coulure and millerandage, two weather related conditions which result in poor fruit set.

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Bunches are much smaller than previous years so yields will be lower – perhaps natures way of limiting the crop to the level that the vine can ripen. Even so, if the drought continues then we will have to reduce yields further by green harvesting. On the plus side, weeds are much less of a problem – a definite advantage in a vineyard where intervine weeding is done by hand.

Of course it is only June and we could still get a good downpour. That would put a smile back on Jean Dominique’s face.

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Posted by on 10 Jan 2014 in News | 0 comments

Pruning Carignan

Today we started on one of the most important annual vineyard tasks – pruning. Important because it is a major determinant of yield and of the way the vine grows during the season and the position of shoots, leaves and grapes. The goal is to leave enough buds to give a yield that the vine can ripen fully and that will result in an evenly spaced canopy of leaves with good aeration, minimising the risk of fungal disease.


Our Carignan vines are spur pruned. These free standing vines with no trellis system are basically bush vines except that instead of growing round like a bush they are spread out along the row to allow a tractor to pass.  We are pruning to between 3 and 6 spurs per vine, depending on vine vigour, leaving 2 buds to each spur.

We select the strongest shoots from last years growth for the spurs and space them as evenly as possible.

Another consideration is the height of the vine. Over the last 60 years, the vines have gradually become higher with each year’s growth and pruning, so we tend to choose the lowest shoots as spurs and cut off parts of the trunk that are too high. With no electric secateurs, this is hard work!




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Posted by on 5 Nov 2013 in News | 0 comments

Basket press

Just to show that you don’t need high-tech equipment to make wine, here are some photos of us pressing our Syrah and Carignan. We used an old basket press, borrowed from our neighbour Didier, which is perfect for small batch winemaking. We tasted the wine every minute or so and stopped as soon as the tannins became too harsh.

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