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Published:  23 July, 2008

Irrigation will be permitted as an emergency measure in French appellations d'origine contrle, following an amendment to the 1964 decree prohibiting the practice. The decision was taken by the Comit National des Vins et Eaux-de-Vie at a meeting of the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine on 3-4 November, and is believed to have been prompted by the exceptionally dry conditions that prevailed during the summer of 2003. Irrigation will continue to be forbidden from 1 May until harvest, except by permission granted on an appellation by appellation basis for the two months between 15 June and 15 August. Growers will need to declare their use of irrigation, and the situation will be carefully monitored. Opinions on the legislative revision are likely to be divided, as they were in Chianti when irrigation was authorised as an emergency measure a few years ago. Some producers will defend the measure as necessary to avoid dangerous levels of water stress and protect the vines. Others will warn of excessively high yields, or protest that the practice will reduce vintage variation and violate the concept of terroir.