ESCA AND FRIENDS
From JANCIS ROBINSON / THE FINANCIAL TIMES 5 January 2013
Throughout my recent travels tasting the 2011s in Burgundy and the Rhône Valley, in cellars there I encountered worried vignerons.
This was not the well-ventilated problem of 2012’s demanding growing season and short crop but something potentially much more serious and long term.
It was my very first stop in the Côte de Nuits, in the well-kept cellars of Denis Bachelet in Gevrey-Chambertin, that first alerted me. He is a mild man who makes delightfully balanced wines and is not given to exaggeration. But he is clearly worried about the health of his vines, and in particular the fact that they seem to be dying off at a rate of between 10 and 20% a year because of ESCA, a disease that affects the wood of the vine.
Up the road in the world-famous cellars of Domaine Armand Rousseau, Eric Rousseau told me how their revered Pinot Noir vines are dying too. A significant proportion of their 50-year-old Cazetiers Premier Cru vines are now having to be replaced each year, for example. In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Paul-Vincent Avril’s treasured Clos des Papes vineyards have also been losing about 100 vines per hectare each year to disease. And the worst of it is that there is no known effective cure.