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Early heatwave puts 2011 Cognac crop at risk
Published:  07 April, 2011

Producers throughout the Cognac region have major concerns that early budbreak, caused by an unprecedented warm spell in early April, could result in severe crop damage if night-time temperatures fall to freezing in the next few weeks.

The long, cold winter of 2010/11 has ended in dramatic style in Cognac, with conditions in the region resembling summer this week – temperatures climbed as high as 30ºC on Weds and Thurs (6-7 April 2011).

“I don’t remember it being so hot so early,” said Isabelle Couprie, cellar master at Cognac Gautier in Aigre.

Budbreak is as much as 15 days ahead of the normally expected timing, with growth of up to 4 or 5 cm in places, leaving vines more than usually susceptible to spring frosts – a real threat up to and including the new moon phase that follows Easter in the last week of the month.

Surveying with concern the vines at ABK6 Cognac in Claix, to the south west of Angoulême, cellar master Simon Palmer recalled that in 1991, extensive damage was caused to the whole region’s crop by a severe frost that struck the region on April 21 of that year.

At the time of writing, forecasts predicted the warm, dry spell would continue into the middle of April.