I've been in the area since 2002, and there has invariably been one very dry year followed by a very rainy one. This year the chain was broken; even though 2010 was particularly rainy in spring and the beginning of summer (around the 15th of June), it has been extremely dry ever since.
Let's go back to Fall 2009, which was very cool until mid November (we still had tomatoes in the garden!). The vines' leaves had fallen rather late, which further delayed pruning. There was very little rain through the winter which made me worry that the soil wouldn't have enough water reserves.
The vines started budding in early April but a cold spell slowed the growth of the first buds. Other than that, the vegetative process went off without a hitch and no illness occurred (even with heavy rainfall), so I barely had to use any treatments: a half dose of copper and three doses of powdered sulfur.
It is quite typical in the area for a large storm to brew around the 15th of August. This storm often will directly affect the harvest's quantity and quality because as you know a vine that is over stressed with too much water does not produce an optimal grape.
We've now gone two years without this storm, and perhaps in the long term this will make us reevaluate how we cultivate our vines in the region.
The rain did come, however, the day before the harvest, a little late to "plump up" most of the grapes but some of the parcels I harvest last for optimal maturity were able to take advantage of this.
The consequences of this lack of water was two-fold: the berries were small and very concentrated and that they were very healthy. No green clusters, no mildew or odium and the harvest was perfect.
We started September 9th and ended on October 7th for a total of 13 days of harvesting. The rain slowed us down for a few days and I took some days off to let my late-harvest parcels ripen to optimal maturity.
Even though the clusters and berries were small, it was a very respectable harvest for me and I reached 22 hl/ha. The alcoholic fermentation went very well even though I was quite worried since the malolactic fermentation had already started right from the beginning. There was little evolution from there and the volatile acidity remained surprisingly low.
This exact phenomenon happened to all my "natural" neighbors as well, and no one is quite sure how to explain it! We are still all waiting on the malo which is now taking its' time; this is definitely the first time this has ever happened!