Jaboulet and a bridge-braiding technique to adapt to climate change

These recent years, which have been increasingly warm and dry, revealed themselves as exceptional vintages. While these conditions may be favorable for grapevines, they also need a more precise and innovative approach to viticulture.

Explore how Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné is refining their expertise, through experiments and pioneering research on canopy management to adapt to an ever-changing environment.

While the changing climate has been observable for several decades, what was once considered extraordinary, like the 2003 vintage, has now become the standard in the Rhone Valley since 2015. 

This marked the start of a series of early harvests due to high temperatures, often reaching 32°C in the shade during the season. In 2022, this trend culminated in a record-breaking stretch of over 50 days with temperatures exceeding 32°C. It was a year characterized by exceptionally dry and hot weather, resulting in a historically early harvest.

"We started harvesting on August 11th, something unprecedented in the memory of a winemaker. It's in these extreme conditions that we truly recognise the greatness of our terroirs and the fruits of our labor," explains Caroline Frey. Yet, the 2022 vintage has indisputably established itself as an exceptional one for Paul Jaboulet Aîné.

To tackle these challenges head-on, the team has taken a proactive approach, strategically adjusting their cultivation methods to confront both high temperatures and water scarcity. Under the guidance of Caroline Frey, a series of experiments, including one focused on vine foliage, have been diligently pursued.

The increasingly dry springs have posed challenges in building adequate water reserve, disrupting the vine's vegetative cycle and occasionally causing blockages. The experiments involve allowing the vine, as a climbing plant, to grow and explore its environment naturally, forming bridges. The goal of this maneuver is to avoid cutting the apex (the terminal bud of each shoot) to prevent the regrowth of auxiliary buds that consume water. This innovative technique enables the plant to self-regulate during periods of intense heat, promoting a more harmonious balance between leaves and fruit. Additionally, these natural bridges provide enhanced shading for the grapes and regulate the growth of interstitial shoots. However, the increased foliage also raises water consumption and may potentially lead to more pronounced water stress.

"We are convinced that it is through observations and experiments that we can test the validity of a hypothesis.” This endeavor is a long-term undertaking spanning multiple vintages. Within five years, results will begin to be observed, and finally, we will be able to assess the effectiveness of this method. In the vineyards, patience becomes an essential virtue. “Our connection with time adopts a unique dimension as we nurture century-old vines, a legacy we cultivate for generations yet to come."

Intrigued by Jaboulet's La Maison Bleue?

Little sister to one of the iconic wines of the Rhône valley, La Maison Bleue has layers of black fruit flavours, spice and leather.