I was thinking about this yesterday when I was getting over my jet lag at a friend’s pool in Tuscany. We had had a light lunch with a couple of bottles of Champagne and some whites, and I brought up the subject of the weather this summer. I've heard so people here say that the summer hasn’t been very warm. Some, such as my editorial assistant, Rosanne, already fear that the summer is over!
The days get up to about 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the nights go down to 66. The sun is bright and strong; so the vines are growing just fine. It’s these differences in temperatures that maintain the perfumes and acidities in the grapes during the growing season. It’s how Tuscan wines can be so rich in alcohol while remaining fresh and clean, if made properly. Many producers in California or Australia, by comparison, have to add acidity to their wines when they have such high alcohols. But that’s another column.
Anyway, I think that this year’s summer is a pretty normal one. I remember that it was like this for most of the 1990s when I came to the region during the summer. Moreover, I was speaking to a Tuscan friend who is about 58 years old, and he said that it’s been abnormally hot during the recent summers in Tuscany. He pointed out that until recently they almost never went to the pool before the end of June. “But in the last six or seven years we could go to the pool by the end of May,” he said. “That’s not normal. It has been too hot. People have forgotten what a real Tuscan summer is.”
I am not sure that going to the pool is great proof of weather patterns, but it works for some. I still remember a restaurant owner in Bordeaux who said that 2007 could not have been a good year because he didn’t serve people on his terrace the whole of August.
Are these sort of old wives’ tales, or simplified ways of analyzing weather changes? Who knows? I still believe in global warming and it certainly is having an effect on vine growing and winemaking, like everything else in the world. My stepfather says, “It's a conspiracy invented by the liberal element in America.” He has his head in the ground over that one!
I remember a conversation a couple years ago with Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages, among others, and he said that he might consider buying land for vineyards in Denmark or Belgium, in light of the way it was warming up all over Europe. “With global warming, it might make sense,” he said, with a dead serious face.
Maybe this year will change his mind? Then again, the weather may be normal for now, but it just can’t be in the future, with all the carbon emissions and everything else changing our environment ...
P.S. If you're lucky enough to drink some 2000 MOËT & CHANDON Brut Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon, the most recent release which I drank with my friend yesterday, get ready for a glorious bottle. I find it much more refined and balanced than the 1999. I think it is the best DP since 1996. It shows a fine bead of bubbles with delicate apple, bread dough and honey that follows through to a full body, with fresh acidity and a long, lively finish.