Heat, a major challenge for the vines

Muriel Wines viñedo

If vines could speak, they would proudly talk about their remarkable performance last May. They were able to withstand a sweltering heatwave that broke all records in a matter of days. Shortly before, trunks and soil were all that was visible in the vineyard; the buds were only tentative and barely revealed the faintest hint of green. But then came the heatwave that accelerated everything. The vines grew hastily, their branches shooting up and covering the vineyard with their distinctive green colour.

An intense heatwave in May

From mid-May onwards, temperatures exceeded record highs in several parts of Rioja. In Elciego we reached over 30ºC during four or five days —something we are not used to at this time of the year. It felt like we were at the height of summer, with clear skies and warm nights.

The vines, which are very resilient and adaptable plants, responded as best they could. On the one hand, they began to rapidly produce shoots helped by the moisture that had deposited in the soil after the previous weeks' rainfall. By May 20th, vines were growing four or five centimetres per day —watching this dramatic growth almost live, on a daily basis, was bewildering!

What are the consequences of such fast growth? On the one hand, the flowering process starts earlier. Bunches usually blossom in early June, but this year they did so two or three weeks earlier, spurred by the heat. As a consequence, the ripening cycle of the grapes is likely to accelerate, bringing forward the next harvest.

A larger green canopy also means that green pruning becomes more laborious. As you already know, we pull out the excess sprouts and cluster-free shoots to encourage the correct development of the plant and the quality of its fruit. This is necessary for the present vintage, but also to ensure that the vines are well balanced and enjoy a long lifespan. A larger canopy means more time must be devoted to trimming the vines. This year will therefore be a busy year in the vineyards.

The months ahead are crucial. We will keep one eye on the sky and the other one on the vines, monitoring ripening as closely as we can so that we are able to make the wines we love once again this year.