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French vineyards suffering from severe drought in some regions

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By Mark Armstrong  with AFP
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Drought is threatening one of France's most famous wine regions.
Drought is threatening one of France's most famous wine regions.   -   Copyright  Credit: AFP

Drought is threatening this year's vintage in the Gironde around Bordeaux, one of France's most famous wine regions.

Weather experts say the country has just had its driest July since 1959.

Although vines thrive in an arid climate, there's only so much they can take.

France's rural code forbids irrigation from 1 May until harvest, however, some growers have been granted special permission to water their plants this year.

"The two people who are there each have a hose with a metal tip at the end that allows the water to go straight to the root of the vine," explained Paulin Calvet, the owner of du château Picque Caillou. "So that this water doesn't scatter anywhere but stays in the heart of the vine, to make the water really go down the trunk to reach the roots directly."

The older vines have deeper roots so it's the younger ones, between three to eight years old, that are crying out for water, around five litres per vine.

The plants also have their own natural built-in defence mechanisms to cope with the dry conditions and high temperatures.

"The yellow leaves show that the vine is defending itself and will stop feeding some of the leaves to withstand this water stress," said Calvet.

Even though some growers have been granted special permission to irrigate their vines, they're not allowed to use water from the network. It has to come from a well.

The problem is the wells are not as full as they usually are because of a lack of rainfall over the past few seasons.

This is a tough year for French vineyards.